FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Colin Murray of the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs returned to the SPHL after spending 47 days with the Wheeling Nailers and Kalamazoo Wings of the ECHL. The experience seems to have done the 6’4″ winger some good. Murray was all over the ice at the Crown Coliseum tonight, including a dominating stretch in the third period and ultimately deciding the game. With their 5-2 victory, the Rail Yard Dawgs improve to 7-4-0 against their rival Fayetteville Marksmen, including a 4-1-0 mark when playing in Fayetteville.
In front of a sparsely-populated crowd of 1,430, the Dawgs and Marksmen began the game at a quick pace with both teams getting off quick, but not excessively challenging shots for starting goaltenders Matt Zenzola for Roanoke and the Marksmen’s Pat Spano. Both goaltenders have been playing well lately – Zenzola has been playing well over his last four starts, while Spano coming off a 58-save effort against Birmingham last week.
The two teams would trade punches during the opening frame, but not like earlier in the season when Zenzola and Marksmen enforcer Brad Drobot did. Steve Mele drew first blood when Cameron Bakker strung a centering pass through traffic to Mele. The Dawgs leading scorer got Spano leaning to his blocker side, then crossed with speed in front of the crease for an easy tip-in under Spano’s glove.
Drobot and Zenzola would find themselves at odds soon after Mele’s game-opening tally but solved their differences far more diplomatically this time. Drobot squeezed past Murray and Ben Bauer, and Chris Porter would find the Fayetteville heavyweight on Zenzola’s doorstep. Rather than punching the Roanoke goalie, Drobot shoved the puck past Zenzola for his first goal of the year.
The Dawgs would take the lead going into the first break. Right after killing off a penalty, Phil Bronner would score his second goal in five games with a wraparound chance which snuck past Spano’s skate with 3:59 remaining in the opening frame.
The second period saw the Marksmen come out with a solid forecheck, taking control of the game in both possession and physicality and forcing Roanoke to play on their heels. With defenseman Joe Sova sitting in the penalty box for a tripping call, Jamie Hill scored his team-high 6th goal against the Rail Yard Dawgs with a shot from the point after a face-off win. At this point, the Marksmen had the game tied and the momentum in their favor until the game would pause unexpectedly.
Though much maligned, hockey officials are a tough breed who work under dangerous conditions with little protection. Tonight, the odds wound up not being in referee Michael Zalcman‘s favor. Twelve minutes into the middle frame, Zalcman wound up as the unintentional recipient of a check from Fayetteville defender Kirill Chaika and Mele. Unable to avoid the two colliding players along the right half-boards, Zalcman dropped to the ice for several minutes while being attended to by Marksmen trainer Kyle Sherrill before leaving the ice for the remainder of the game. Linesman Venance Lorenz would assume the refereeing duties in Zalcman’s absence while Steve Elias would manage both lines.
Good news for Zalcman, as we learned the referee injured his knee but did not suffer serious damage and is expected to recover quickly.
Going into the third period, it seemed the Marksmen were primed to break the game open. Fayetteville opened the frame on the power play, then made it a 5-on-3 advantage for a short time. Perhaps the pivotal moment of the game, the Rail Yard Dawgs kill off the extended penalty time successfully, then Murray put a chokehold on the game in Roanoke’s favor. Murray would get two points on back-to-back shifts. The big forward would break the 2-2 deadlock at the 3:58 mark with a singular effort, using his size to screen himself from two defenders before beating Ludlow Harris – going between the blueliner’s legs and using a spin move before scoring under Spano’s blocker.
Murray would find Eric Witzel to give the Dawgs a little breathing room. Once again working on Harris, Murray backhanded a pass back to Witzel, streaking down the right side. Like Murray’s previous goal, Witzel would forehand a shot under the blocker of Spano and suddenly a deadlocked game just a few moments ago was under Roanoke’s control.
Down a pair of goals late in the third period, Fayetteville coach Phil Esposito gambled early, pulling Spano with 3:41 remaining in the contest. However, Esposito’s wager did not pay off and Victor Tiutchenko would end the scoring with an empty-net goal with 2:03 remaining in the game.
Fayetteville’s loss combined with a 4-1 win by the Birmingham Bulls over the Evansville Thunderbolts now puts the Marksmen in tenth place in the league standings. The home-and-home set between the Marksmen and Rail Yard Dawgs resumes tomorrow in Roanoke at the Berglund Center. Fayetteville is 3-2-1 in road games against Roanoke, although the Dawgs have taken the last three decisions on their home ice.
Around the SPHL tonight on an unusually busy Thursday night, the free-falling Evansville Thunderbolts dropped their sixth straight game, with Birmingham taking a 4-1 decision on the strength of Shane Topf‘s two goals. In Huntsville, the Havoc and Knoxville Ice Bears took their rivalry to overtime before Alex Botten‘s walk-off shot gave Huntsville a 3-2 victory.
Three Stars of the Game
★ – Colin Murray, Roanoke – Goal, Assist, Game-Winning Goal, +3
★★ – Cameron Bakker, Roanoke – Two Assists, +3
★★★ – Nick Schneider, Roanoke – Two Assists, +3
|Roanoke – Steve Mele (Cameron Bakker, Nick Schneider) 7:55
Fayetteville – Brad Drobot (Chris Porter) 8:32
Roanoke – Phil Bronner (Cameron Bakker) 16:01
|Fayetteville – Jamie Hill (power play) (Bryan Dallaire, Jake Hauswirth) 5:07|
|Roanoke – Colin Murray (Ben Bauer, Nick Schneider) 3:58
Roanoke – Eric Witzel (Colin Murray, Matt Zenzola) 6:22
Roanoke – Victor Tiutchenko (empty net) (Eric Witzel) 17:57
|Fayetteville – Chris Porter – (Tripping), 2 MIN, 1:44
Fayetteville – Tommy Fiorentino – (Tripping), 2 MIN, 11:20
Roanoke – Colin Murray – (Delay of Game), 2 MIN, 13:57
|Roanoke – Joe Sova – (Tripping), 2 MIN, 4:24
Roanoke – Cameron Bakker – (Holding), 2 MIN, 19:55
|Roanoke – Ben Bauer – (Slashing), 2 MIN, 1:34|
Game Stats courtesy SPHL/Pointstreak