LAFAYETTE, LA — The fifth week of this season in the Southern Professional Hockey League gave us some thrilling moments on the ice and bittersweet moments away from the rink.
1. Saturday Night Was a Lot of Fun
The evening of October 18th gave us plenty of entertaining moments. It was the first Saturday night this season which featured a full slate of five SPHL games. Overtime decided three of the five games, including one nine-round shootout in Birmingham. The Bulls won said shootout for their first win in franchise history. All of the games stayed within one goal margins until Huntsville scored an empty-net goal at the very end of their game at Pensacola. The shooters reigned supreme – 36 pucks would find twine, including a pair of goal-of-the-year candidates from Roanoke’s Riley Spraggs and Don Olivieri‘s overtime winner for the RiverKings. Spraggs’ marker wound up making SportsCenter’s top ten plays for the evening. Saturday wound up showcasing the league in it’s prime, and we hope to have more of these evenings as the season progresses.
Take a good look at both of this week’s highlight-reel goals:
Olivieri’s Overtime Winner
2. Sean Bonar May Not Return to Pensacola Anytime Soon
The Ice Flyers have dropped two of their three games during coach Jeff Bes‘ five-game suspension for allowing a player to practice with the team before the signing paperwork cleared the league office. Josh Cousineau, perhaps the team’s top forward, has been on injured reserve since Halloween. Most important, Sean Bonar looks like he’s going to be with the ECHL Atlanta Gladiators for a while. Bonar, 2-0-0 with a 2.00 GAA and a .947 SV% with Atlanta, is statistically the Gladiators’ best goaltender. Matt Ginn, who usually shares goaltending duties with Dan Vladar, was placed on injured reserve by the Gladiators last week. While Bonar will likely be the odd man out when Ginn returns to action, his strong play may keep him away from Pensacola for a while.
3. Don Olivieri Apparently Likes Playing in Southaven
Perhaps it’s the Memphis barbecue, maybe he’s blessed by the ghost of Elvis, but defenseman Don Olivieri has cranked up his game since the Mississippi RiverKings traded Robbie Hall to the Evansville and securing Olivieri’s return to Southaven. The Godfather has scored a goal in each of his three games since reuniting with his original SPHL team.
4. It’s Almost Panic Time for Fayetteville
The next set of ten games will be an early bellwether moment for the new-look Fayetteville Marksmen. So far this campaign, the Marksmen have been allowing goals in droves, giving up five or more goals in six of their first ten games. Head coach Nick Mazzolini has been bringing in new defensive faces to shore up his shorthanded blue line. Sean Robertson, the Marksmen’s top defensive player, remains day-to-day with the ECHL Florida Everblades. While the Marksmen need to shore up on the defensive side of the ice, Mazzonlini’s real test is to coach up his forwards in defensive transition to help out their pairings down low. Keep an eye on the backcheck, Marksmen fans. Five of the next seven games are at the Crown, hosting Macon, Roanoke, and Peoria – a prime time for Mazzolini’s team to find some balance.
5. Our #HockeyFightsCancer campaign is up to $133
This week, we support the effort to diagnose and treat pediatric neuroblastoma – cancer which affects the nervous system. Children who are diagnosed early have an extremely high survival rate, but those with high-risk stage 4 neuroblastoma have a five-year survival rate of 40-50% and are likely to relapse. I have read about a pair of heartbreaking stories lately: Eleven-year-old Arianna Dougan, honored by her favorite hockey team, the St. Louis Blues, lost her fight on November 11th. Nine-year-old Jacob Thompson – his wish granted last week for an early Christmas, receiving cards and gifts from thousands of well-wishers – passed away on Monday. We will dedicate our #HockeyFightsCancer buck-a-goal drive this week to the Children’s Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation.
So keep lighting those lamps, boys, because one child with cancer is one child too many.
Three Stars for Week 5
★ – Steve Mele (C-Roanoke) Seven assists on seven consecutive Roanoke goals.
★★ – Devin Mantha (C-Mississippi) Three goals (2 GWG), Three assists.
★★★ – Stephen Pierog (C-Macon) Goal, Five assists, +4 rating.
On Deck This Week
Inside the SPHL Podcast with Matt Harding and Mike Campos – 8:00 CT
We release our first edition of our SPHL Power Rankings for this season.
Macon at Pensacola – 6:35 CT
Fayetteville at Roanoke – 7:05 ET
Evansville at Huntsville – 7:00 CT
Pensacola at Huntsville – 3:00 CT
Macon at Fayetteville – 7:00 ET
Roanoke at Knoxville – 7:35 ET
Mississippi at Peoria – 7:15 CT
Evansville at Birmingham – 7:35 CT
Roanoke at Fayetteville – 6:00 ET
Knoxville at Macon – 7:35 ET
Huntsville at Pensacola – 7:05 CT
Mississippi at Peoria – 7:15 CT