KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Ice Bears have struggled to start the season. In their three games, Knoxville lost to the Evansville Thunderbolts on opening night in a game where Knoxville could never find their way. The Ice Bears would follow that loss up with an overtime win the next night in Fayetteville. Finally, the Ice Bears would lose to Fayetteville last Friday night.
Knoxville will look to get on the right track with a home-and-home series with the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs this weekend.
Let’s take a look at the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs and see how their season is going so far:
Roanoke So Far This Season:
Current Record: 1-2-1 – 3 Points
Goals For Per Game: 2.00 (tied for 5th in SPHL)
Goals Against Per Game: 3.25 (tied for 9th in SPHL)
Power Play: 3/14, 21.4% (3rd in SPHL)
Penalty Kill: 4/22, 81.8% (7th in SPHL)
Offensively, Roanoke is trying to find its footing. Forward Brantley Sherwood is leading the Rail Yard Dawgs in scoring with four points (1G, 3A) in four games. Sherwood is a player with a lot of SPHL experience, so expect him to be heavily involved in Roanoke’s offense. New addition Shayne Morrissey has also played well for Roanoke. In his two games with Roanoke, Morrissey has tallied two points (1G, 1A). He is a player on the top of his game and Knoxville will need to lock him up to be successful.
Finally, Knoxville will need to stop rookie forward C.J. Stubbs, he has two goals in four games. Interestingly, he is the only Roanoke player with more than one goal.
Knoxville’s defensemen will need to cut down the open ice that Roanoke forwards will try to use and win board battles against Roanoke’s forwards.
Defensively, the Rail Yard Dawgs are lead by two veterans on the blue line; Travis Armstrong and Joe Sova. Roanoke’s defense is filled with a lot of big-bodied defensemen, which means Knoxville will need to get pucks in deep to the defensive zone and use their team speed to get around and cycle the puck past Roanoke’s big defensemen. Players like Scott Cuthrell, Brady Fleurent, and Riley Christensen will be key in accomplishing that task.
Between the pipes, Roanoke is lead by Stephen Klein. Klein, like Roanoke, has struggled to start the season, he has a 3.56 goals against average in three games. Michael Stiliadis is Roanoke’s other goaltender. In his first two games, he has a 2.43 goals against average and a .942 save percentage.
Recipe for Victory
Ultimately for the Ice Bears to get on the right track, they will need a full commitment for 60 minutes. Defensemen Alex Carlson, Charlie Granath, and Jason Price will need to take over the game and dominate their defensive zone with their big frames and not give Roanoke’s forwards any room to create space. Offensively, look for newcomers Dwyer Tschantz and Jacob Benson along with the players I mentioned earlier to take over the offensive zone and cycle the puck quickly to create good offensive chances. Finally, in net, the Ice Bears will need a consistent performance for 60 minutes and will also need help from their defense to cut down on the open ice and one on one scoring opportunities.
The home-and-home pair gets going Friday night at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum, with faceoff set for 7:35 pm ET. The scene shifts to Roanoke for faceoff Saturday night set for 7:05 pm ET.