FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – The 2019-20 season was one to remember for the Fayetteville Marksmen. Despite their season being cut short in March, the Marksmen recorded 31 wins, six regulation losses, and had nine losses in overtime or shootout. The Marksmen clinched a playoff spot for the second year in a row but, their hopes of playing in the postseason faded as the pandemic rose. Although fans and players were left wondering what could have been with this remarkable season, the Marksmen still got rewarded by being named “2020 Southeast United States Professional Sports Team of the Year” by Corporate Vision in their 2020 Small Business Awards.
With the 2020-21 season targetted to start in mid-to-late December, the Marksmen have a lot to look forward to when play resumes.
The organization has had a busy offseason, signing three key players such as defenseman Don Oliveri, who recorded seven goals and 14 assists for 21 points. Head coach Cory Melkert says Oliveri’s value to the team goes beyond the ice:
“He was a leader in the locker room and helped a ton of our younger players take the next step.”
The Marksmen also signed forward Shane Bednard, who played 39 games with the club last season, as well as seven games with the ECHL’s Norfolk Admirals. With the Marksmen, the rookie forward scored eight goals and collected 29 assists for 37 points. He finished a distant in the rookie scoring race, finishing 28 points behind the league’s MVP – fellow rookie Austin Pelvy.
Bednard and Oliveri weren’t the only players the Marksmen re-signed. Goaltender Blake Wojtala will be coming back for the 2020-2021 season. The rookie goaltender was between the pipes for 18 of 31 wins, averaging a .920 save percentage, and a 2.61 goals against average. Wojtala’s 18 wins placed him in the top-3 among league netminders.
The fourth signing of the extended offseason saw Melkert bring back some grit and sandpaper to the Marksmen lineup. Defenseman Josh Victor will return for a second season. Victor emerged as a stay-at-home defenseman on the Marksmen blueline, shortly after being acquired from Quad City in December. The ceiling for Victor in his sophomore pro season is high, considering he registered a +15 last season, tied for sixth-best in the league.
“I’m excited to be back in the ‘Ville,” Victor said in a press release. “The winning culture that was built by Cory is infectious and it made the game fun. Hockey season cannot come soon enough.”
You can keep tabs on all the signings in the SPHL this long offseason, by checking out our Transactions page!