Head Coach: Jeff Pyle – 1st Year Coach of Thunderbolts – Former Evansville IceMen (ECHL) Head Coach
Captain: The first-ever team captain has yet to be disclosed.
Last Season: New beginnings in the SPHL.
2015-16 Season Summary – Evansville is happy to move on from last season with the other team, in the other league, with the other owner (who shall not be named). Last season was not a rewarding one in terms of the on-ice product. The team finished last in the Midwest Division of the ECHL. The off-ice debacle eroded fan support to new lows in Evansville dropping average attendance by almost 1,000 people per game.
The grieving process is complete and there’s a lot to look forward to in Evansville. It’s a new day with a new team, league, future rivalries, and players. Most of the Evansville hockey faithful is on board with the new team and casual fans should return as well.
Hot or Not?
It’s tough to say what pieces of the new Evansville Thunderbolts team are hot. There were not player signings in the offseason of the top two or three scorers from last season in the SPHL. In fairness, no one expected that either. The team is being built to function as a good team rather than assembling individual players in hopes they work out as a team.
The best indicator appears to be looking at the Louisiana IceGators from last season. The Thunderbolts have added a plethora of talent from that team to theirs. While the IceGators finished .500 last season, the host of players currently in Evansville raises the floor for this year’s team. The former IceGators know they style of play in the SPHL and are seasoned. Mixed with some college graduates, other SPHL talent, and FHL players, the ceiling could potentially be high in totality.
Jeff Pyle is back, although there’s been a hiatus since Evansville has seen him last. On the ice? Time to learn some new faces in the places.
That would be everybody.
The obvious answer is everyone. There are a couple of names that are worth knowing going into opening night:
John Daniels (C) – Playing last year for the IceGators, John had 19 goals and 49 assists in 49 games. Prior to that he played at Saint Anselm College where he averaged just under a point per game (20 points in 21 games).
Luke Sandler (F) – Luke is another player from the IceGators that has both SPHL and ECHL experience. During the Sin Bin season preview show, Coach Pyle described him as a large personality. That goes with his 6’2” 209lb frame. Last season he scored a combined 17 goals and 13 assists in 58 games. Luke played for Peoria, Louisiana, and Brampton.
Brad Bourke (D) – Brad is another of the Evansville IceGators (Patent Pending). The 6’1” blue liner played last year in Louisiana, and Fayetteville. In 38 total games he scored five goals, had 12 assists and only accumulated 18 penalty minutes. In addition, for the season he was only a -1, but was +3 during his 35 games in Louisiana.
Movin’ On Up
Phil Bronner (F) – Phil has experience in the ECHL from last season having played games for both Elmira and Adirondack. He’s a positive +/- guy and can add both goal scoring capabilities and assists.
Ryan Patsch (F) – Last season Patsch logged ice time in both Elmira and Manchester. He padded his stat sheet while playing in the FHL also. Ryan isn’t afraid to mix it up, logging 116 penalty minutes last season which makes him versatile to teams that need a player.
Tanner Milliron (G) – Goaltending always ends up at a premium as a season wears on. Guys start to get hurt on the higher levels and the trickle down gets felt to everyone else. Young, athletic goaltenders who may have potentially started to prove themselves get an opportunity for call-ups. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tanner didn’t get a call from someone during the season.
Sin Bin Swami Says… – Given that there are so many variables going into a brand new team it’s difficult to project out what the Evansville may accomplish. Coach Pyle has told me he wants a team that can play any style of game. If it’s an uptempo night, he wants to be able to bring it. If it’s a rough game he wants a team that will defend itself. Given that sort of attitude, I am thinking the Thunderbolts will not go quietly on any given night.
I’m predicting a 25-25-6 record with a berth in the SPHL playoffs.