Video Credit: WEAR-TV Pensacola

One of the cardinal rules in relationships is to never break off the commitment right before Valentine’s day. Unfortunately for Kevin Hasselberg, the Pensacola Ice Flyers ended the relationship with their head coach on February 13th. Hasselberg’s SPHL coaching stint lasted 36 games, going 15-15-6 in his first season coaching pro hockey after a long and successful career coaching junior hockey in Saskatchewan.

In the Ice Flyers’ press release, owner Greg Harris said, “Kevin came in here, worked tirelessly and put everything into this team, and I truly appreciate that. Unfortunately, the results haven’t been what we want and need them to be. So with great respect to him and everyone a part of the organization, I had to make a change of leadership behind the bench.”

After a 5-9-5 start to the season, the Ice Flyers’ fortunes seemed to take a turn for the better. The team – 6-3-1 over their last ten games – was trending toward their seventh straight postseason appearance. Hasselberg’s dismissal comes after the high point in Pensacola’s season – a three-game weekend sweep of the Peoria Rivermen at the Pensacola Bay Center. In Harris’s post to fans on Facebook, the Ice Flyers’ owner commented, “This past weekend was great don’t get me wrong, and I am excited about winning all three games against our rival Peoria. However, it’s a tough business we’re in. I respect him greatly for all the time and effort he put into this team, and I can’t thank him enough for that. As should we all.”

The team will announce their new coach at a 9:00 am CT press conference. The Ice Flyers announced Hasselberg over the summer as the successor to two-time President’s Cup winner Rod Aldoff, who departed Pensacola to take over the ECHL Norfolk Admirals. Aldoff was let go by the Admirals 17 games into the season, going 2-11-4,  and according to Bill Vilona of the Pensacola News Journal is still retained by the Edmonton Oilers – the Admirals’ parent team – as a scout.

Midseason coaching changes are hard to predict, but conventional wisdom says that Harris may elect to bring Aldoff back to lead the Ice Flyers for the playoff run. Aldoff is already familiar with the organization and – with two league titles in three seasons – has a proven record of success in the SPHL. Another possibility is Anthony Noreen, who was dismissed by the Orlando Solar Bears back in November. Noreen is a Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate. UWSP is a solid D3 program which sends several players to the SPHL each season.

Whether Harris brings back Aldoff, taps Noreen, or goes with an unexpected option, Hasselberg’s replacement will take over a team much improved from November. Matt Zenzola and John McLean remain solid goaltending options, Corey Banfield has regained his scoring touch with recent arrival Josh Harris, and budding stars in Riley Spraggs, Patrick Megannety, and Louis Belisle. We’ll find out tomorrow who takes (or re-takes) over the Ice Flyers’ roster.

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  1. During the evening news, team owner Greg Harris stated that the decision to replace Hasselberg was made after the Ice Flyers lost three consecutive games to Roanoke and Columbus (Feb 3rd – 7th) – both team which trail the Ice Flyers in the standings.

    Hopefully, I can post a clip of the interview (or at least a link to the interview) a little later tonight.

  2. This years team did not return many players from last years championship team. Currently only three players were on last years team and two of them are goaltenders. Kevin had a big job having to rebuild a team depleted of it’s many stars. He did a decent job putting together a new team. Early in the season the biggest problem was the lack of scoring which has been a hallmark of the last four years. That said the week before sweeping Peoria the Flyers lost three games (two to Roanoke and one to last place Columbus) that should have been easy wins. I think this and the availability of Aldoff played a big part in the sudden change mid-season. It is not easy to come in cold in your first season and rebuild a team into a winner. The Ice Flyers got fortunate that first Graham and then Aldoff had no problems constantly restocking the team with players on the verge of moving up to the next level as well as keeping the team together and winning when whole lines and star goaltenders would get called up to the ECHL.

    I hated to see Rod Aldoff get the ax so soon at Norfolk. Three players from last years Championship Ice Flyers team are making big contributions in Norfolk and a fourth had a shortened season after a very bad injury. Same goes for Hasselberg. He had the same type of success pre-SPHL as Aldoff had before coming to Pensacola. It comes down to winning. After four really spectacular years of winning almost everything sitting in Seventh place does not sit well. Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions and seems Greg Harris made that call. I’m sure the Ice Flyer fans will gladly welcome Aldoff back behind the bench.

    Good Luck to Kevin Hasselberg in his future endeavors. He was a class act and did his best to bring another title to our little city on the bay.

    • Well said, John. We viewed this season’s Ice Flyers as a rebuild and while the team performed below expectations in the beginning of the season, the Flyers improved throughout the season and were continuing to trend up. We didn’t expect Pensacola to contend for a regular-season title, but we did believe the team would make the postseason.

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