PENSACOLA, Fla. – The Ice Flyers are in the middle of retooling their defense corps. Last week, they announced a trade with the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs for the rights to Cam Bakker. Yesterday the Ice Flyers inked a veteran entering his 13th professional season, Craig Cescon.
Bakker is going to be a third-year pro in 2019-20 and spent the majority of last season in the ECHL with the South Carolina Stingrays when not suiting up for the Rail Yard Dawgs. In ten regular-season games with Roanoke, Bakker had four assists, six penalty minutes, and a +2. Bakker was instrumental to Roanoke’s success in the playoffs. As the Dawgs bounced the regular-season champion Peoria Rivermen from the postseason, Bakker tied for the team lead in scoring with seven points (one goal, six assists) in five playoff games. With the Stingrays, Bakker appeared in 42 games and had one goal, 11 assists, 17 PIM, and a -7.
In Bakker’s rookie season, he started the year in the Federal Hockey League with the Cornwall Nationals before signing with the Dawgs. Bakker was familiar with the general area around Roanoke, playing his collegiate hockey about 60 miles away in Lynchburg for Liberty University.
Liberty competes at the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division 1 level. While technically a club team, Liberty’s hockey team is run and treated like a varsity NCAA Division I team. One would be hard-pressed to find a club team with a higher commitment to excellence and better organization. Bakker picked up a ton of experience appearing in 139 games over his four seasons with the Flames and was expected to contribute both offensively and defensively for the Flames.
Bakker plays the game defensively responsible but with the offensive intelligence of a forward. That is because when Bakker arrived at Liberty, he showed up as a forward. Bakker played forward in junior and youth hockey and had never played defense before arriving in Lynchburg. The Flames’ coaching staff shifted Bakker back to the blue line, and it would be hard to argue that it wasn’t a smart decision.
There is an old hockey cliché about defensemen who can eat up a ton of minutes for a team. This cliché is flawed; technically, any defenseman can play a lot of minutes. A coach and team need a player who can play those minutes and play them well. Bakker is that kind of player. He can eat up minutes without worrying about him being a defensive liability.
The Ice Flyers continued building their new-look defensive corps with the signing of veteran Cescon. Last season was Cescon’s fifth straight season playing in Europe. He began the year with Romanian club ASC Corona Brasov competing in both the Romanian league. Later, he moved up to the Erste Liga, an international league with teams in Austria, Hungary, and Romania. After a mutual agreement with the club, Cescon left ASC Corona Brasov and returned to North American. Not long after, former Ice Flyers coach Gary Graham came calling and convinced Cescon to suit up for the ECHL’s Fort Wayne Komets.
In 21 combined games with ASC Corona Brasov over the two leagues, Cescon put up two goals, five assists, and 75 PIM. While with Fort Wayne, Cescon played in 47 regular-season games. In that time, he scored just one goal but assisted on four others, had 94 PIM, and had a -3. He appeared in three playoff games for the Komets and netted one goal while amassing eight PIM and a -1 rating.
As Cescon’s stats throughout his career suggest, he isn’t going to play a finesse game or be relied upon to be a sniper. He is pretty much as gritty as they come in the way hockey is played today. He’ll drop the gloves when needed, fight for pucks in the corner, throw hard hits, and make it a nightmare for opposing forwards who try to glide into the Ice Flyers’ zone.
Follow Geoff Nichols on Twitter at @SinBinIceFlyers.