In nine weeks, the puck drops in Roanoke to kick off the SPHL’s 13th season. Teams are still building their rosters for training camp, and several teams across the SPHL have been active this week.
You can view all the SPHL teams’ signees and protected players on our brand-spanking-new transaction page – updated daily.
Headlining the week are the defending President’s Cup champion Pensacola Ice Flyers. The Flyers signed three players this week, beginning with a pair of NCAA Division I players.
Forward Cal Decowski from the University of Minnesota-Duluth and defenseman Zach Loesch from Lake Superior (WI) University will both have a chance to make the Flyers’ roster. Should Decowski and Loesch make the team, they get to play with the reigning SPHL scoring king, Corey Banfield. The Calgary native will begin his fourth season with the Ice Flyers after scoring 32 goals and 36 assists last season. Banfield’s 32 goals also led the SPHL.
The Flyers also announced former defenseman Steve Bergin is dropping the skates and picking up the clipboard. Bergin will begin his coaching career on Ryan Warsofsky‘s staff with the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays. Bergin played 217 games for the Ice Flyers, scoring 11 goals and 53 assists with a cumulative +53 plus/minus rating.
Finally… be sure to catch new Ice Flyers head coach Kevin Hasselberg‘s interview on our Into The Sin Bin podcast.
The Evansville Thunderbolts added a second goaltender to their training camp roster. Dalton McGrath will join Curtis Martinu as both goaltenders look to gain full-time SPHL jobs this summer. Like Martinu, McGrath spent significant time in the FHL last season. McGrath, who had short stints with the Mississippi RiverKings and Peoria Rivermen, appeared in 17 games for FHL Danville, going 7-6-2 with a 2.73 GAA and .915 SV%. The Bolts also worked on securing defense for training camp with former Fayetteville FireAntz blueliner Andrew Darrigo and former Louisiana IceGator Brad Denney. Darrigo, who spent ECHL time with Brampton and Missouri, played 21 games for the FireAntz last season with a +5 plus/minus rating along with a goal and two assists. Denney, looking to get back to the SPHL after spending last season with FHL Danville, scored six goals and 21 assists for the Dashers and racked up a +32 plus/minus rating.
In Fayetteville, the FireAntz signed their second returning player this off-season, announcing defenseman Nicholas Rivait will return for his second pro season. Rivait was impressive in his rookie season with a +5 plus/minus rating and only 65 penalty minutes. Additionally, Rivait contributed in the offensive zone with two goals and 14 assists.
Always busy, the Huntsville Havoc did not disappoint their fans this week. Defenseman Nolan Kaiser announced his return to the team for a second season. Kaiser put up good offensive numbers (8G/14A) in his pro debut, and will join fellow defensemen Stuart Stefan, Zach Carriveau, and rookie Robby Simpson on the Havoc blue line.
Also, rookie Jeff Lorenz from the University of Alberta-Augustana will begin his pro career in Huntsville. The winger scored 22 points last season (5G/17A) in 21 games for the Vikings.
Attention SPHL players… don’t bother growing out your beards this year, because Knoxville Ice Bears blueliner Brad Pawlowski (and arguably the greatest beard in professional hockey) is back for another season. The 7th year defenseman had a career year in 2015-16, scoring ten goals and 16 assists – the best offensive numbers of his pro career.
The Ice Bears’ second signing of the week doesn’t have Pawlowski’s flow, but definitely has the firepower. Doug Reid, the former Alabama-Huntsville Charger, lit the lamp early and often in his professional debut in Knoxville. Reid scored 17 goals along with 18 assists – good for third in team scoring.
The Macon Mayhem added a pair of heavyweights to their camp roster, and both have links to the RiverKings. Forward Stathis Soumelidis and defenseman Daniel Sobotka announced their intentions to attend training camp in Macon. Soumelidis played in 23 games for the RiverKings last season, racking up nine scraps and 67 penalty minutes. The 6’6″ Sobotka, who spent a pair of seasons in Southaven during 2013-15, spent last season playing in his native Czech Republic.
In Mississippi, the RiverKings bring in a pair of rookie defensemen for their camp roster. Richard Coyne from St. Scholastica (MN) played for the Kings at the end of the regular season and throughout the postseason. Spencer Metcalfe played four seasons at Prince Edward Island in Canada. Prior to Metcalfe’s college career, he played on the 2009-10 QMJHL champion Moncton Wildcats.
The Peoria Rivermen sign a second collegiate rookie netminder to their camp roster. Tyler Green from Wisconsin-Eau Claire put up great individual numbers (1.83, .944) last season. Also signed by the two-time defending regular season champs is Kyllian Kirkwood, a two-way blueliner from Westfield (MA) State University. Kirkwood spent a ten-game stint with the FireAntz, scoring a goal and an assist.
Finally, in Virginia, the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs are getting major renovations done to their home arena.
That’s all the SPHL news for this week. Next week, look for head coach Jean-Guy Trudel to appear as my next guest on our Into The Sin Bin podcast.