KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Knoxville Ice Bears ended last year’s campaign with a semifinal series loss to the Huntsville Havoc. While the semifinals exit left a sour note on the year as whole, the Ice Bears had a very solid campaign in Jeff Carr’s second season at the helm.
Nuts and Bolts:
2018-19 Record: 29-22-5 – 63 points
Playoff Finish: Lost to the Huntsville Havoc in the semifinals, two games to none.
Goals For Per Game: 3.01 (5th in SPHL)
Goals Against Per Game: 2.96 (6th in SPHL)
Power Play: 37/216, 17.1% (6th in SPHL)
Penalty Kill: 16/203, 92.1% (1st in SPHL)
How will the Ice Bears sure up their defensive ranks after the losses of David Brancik and Doug Rose? Knoxville will look to Alex Carlson to fill the physical lockdown role of Brancik, while Ricky Kramer will be tasked with picking up offensive slack left by Rose’s departure.
The Ice Bears will need more scoring depth this year if they want to be successful. Knoxville has brought in a lot of talent that they hope can light the lamp consistently. Look for Dylan Vander Esch and Brady Fleurent to step up the scoring for the Ice Bears depth.
Finally, for the Ice Bears to be successful this season they need consistent goaltending from their pairing of goalies. Knoxville will turn to returning netminders Michael Santaguida and Hayden Stewart to start the season. Keep an eye on their play this season and if they can elevate the Ice Bears to new levels.
When looking at some of the talent Carr has been giving insight on what he wants to see from some of the returning players and what to expect from some of the new players. The first player is Alex Carlson. When asked what he wants to see from Carlson this year, Carr said, “He needs to be the most physical player on the ice, whether it is in fighting or just normal play.”
Another player Carr spoke highly of is Riley Christensen, describing his playing style as “a mix between former Ice Bears Tommy Kelley and Eliot Grauer.”
Stanislav Dzakhov is poised for a breakout year for the Ice Bears. Dzakhov tallied 31 points in 33 games with the Ice Bears last year. This year Dzakhov’s increased offensive talents could lead to him being one of the league’s top scorers.
Scott Cuthrell was an exciting player in his rookie season, his mix of speed and puck handling ability made him a nightmare for opposing teams. In his rookie year, Cuthrell had 43 points in 47 games with 31 of those points coming from assists. In his sophomore year in the SPHL, Cuthrell will be called upon elevate his game to another level. The Ice Bears will have one of the deepest forward groups in the league if players like Cuthrell and Dzakhov can take the next step this year.
Lionel Mauron is a rookie that’ll be looking to make a name for himself this season. Mauron’s game is very mature. He plays calmly with the puck on his stick and doesn’t let his opponents rush his playmaking. In his calm playing style on the ice, Mauron resembles his Ice Bear teammate Stefan Brucato.
Gone but Not Forgotten
David Brancik was a reliable defenseman for the Ice Bears who always played very physical while on the ice. Brancik has gone back to play in the Czech Republic. His physical and presence and reliable playmaking will be missed on the ice this season.
Doug Rose was a point-producing machine for the Ice Bears from the blue line last year. He accounted for 34 points last year which made him the second-highest point getting defenseman in the league. Rose has gone to play overseas in the Netherlands this year. The Ice Bears will need to fill the void in the point production left by Rose’s departure.
Spencer Metcalfe was the Ice Bears physical leader and main fighter last year. Metcalfe has retired and joined the Ice Bears as an assistant coach. The Ice Bears will need to find someone who will step up to the plate to protect his teammates like Metcalfe last year. Look for rookie Brian Bachnak to try and fill the void left by Metcalfe in the physicality department.
Sin Bin Swami Sez
The Ice Bears will finish the regular season in fourth place, but will exorcise their playoff semifinal demons this year and will play for the President’s Cup.