Head Coach: Jeff Bes returns for his second season with the Antz and his fifth SPHL season as a head coach (106-96-22). Bes was the 2011-12 SPHL Coach of the Year with the Mississippi Surge.
Captain: The team has not disclosed a captain for this season.
Last Season: The Antz finished fourth in the SPHL with a 30-21-5 (65 points) regular season record. Defeated Knoxville, 2-1, in the opening round of the playoffs before being swept by Peoria in the semifinals.
2015-16 Season Summary – After missing the postseason for two consecutive seasons, the FireAntz brought in former Mississippi Surge coach Jeff Bes to bring stability to the franchise. Thanks to the solid play of forwards Josh McQuade, Berkley Scott, and Kyle Gibbons; defensemen Zach Carriveau, Nick Rivait, and Steven Hoshaw; and goaltenders Sean Bonar and Parker Van Buskirk the Antz got off to a fast start to the season. Injuries to Scott and Carriveau and the ECHL call-up of Bonar, Fayetteville wasn’t as strong over the second half of the season. Still, the Antz managed a strong finish and secured their first postseason appearance in three seasons. Van Buskirk shined during the opening round playoff series against Knoxville, taking the series after dropping Game 1. However, the Antz ran into the red-hot goaltending of Kyle Rank and the Peoria Rivermen in the semifinals. Fayetteville was swept by Peoria with Rank shutting out the Antz for the entire series.
Hot or Not?
Outside of Sean Bonar… Not. Fayetteville is going into the 2016-17 season without the services of most of the players who powered the Antz back to respectability. Gone are former captain Derek Elliott, McQuade, Scott, Gibbons, Nick Lazorko, Carriveau, and Van Buskirk. Enforcer Brad Drobot returns for a third season as the team’s primary protector and Joe Manno & Tayler Thompson are the Antz’ top returning scorers. Look for a pair of rookies from D3 national champion Wisconsin-Stevens Point – defenseman Alex Brooks and forward Evan Dixon to provide a youthful spark.
- G Sean Bonar – Arguably the SPHL’s best goaltender, Bonar was 9-3-0 with a 1.89 GAA and a .936 SV% before spending the rest of the regular season between ECHL Brampton, Fort Wayne, and Wichita.
- D Nick Rivait – Had a solid rookie season on the Antz blue line. Rivait goes into his sophomore season as the team’s top defenseman.
- RW Joe Manno – The second-year winger is coming off an impressive all-around season (21G/17A/+12/107PIM)
- RW Josh McQuade – The former SPHL scoring leader is playing semi-pro in Canada.
- F Kyle Gibbons – The 61-point scoring forward from last season is playing overseas in Germany.
- D Zach Carriveau – Had a season-ending upper-body injury last season, and has since signed with the Huntsville Havoc for this season.
- D Alex Brooks – Impressive during his short post-collegiate stint with the Antz at the end of the regular season (five assists in three games).
- D Vytal Cote – Played three productive seasons in the QMJHL, the 6’2″ blueliner should bring solid, physical play.
- LW Stephon Thorne – A five-year ECHL middleweight, the 5’11”, 168lb. Thorne isn’t shy to drop the gloves when needed.
Movin’ On Up
Bonar. The instant an ECHL team needs a goaltender for an extended period of time, Bonar will be on the first flight out.
Sin Bin Swami Says… If Bonar heads back to the ECHL, it could be a long season in Fayetteville. With so many key players from last season no longer with the Antz, this team will be on the postseason bubble.