The SPHL finished its second week of play this week with a short schedule of five games. The fans of the expansion Macon Mayhem got their first ever win, the Cottonmouths’ defensive woes continue, the SPHL Title Belt changed hands, and the one team was given the week off. Today, we’ll review the week, talk about the early surprises, and post this week’s power rankings.
The league’s biggest news, however, occurred off the ice. The SPHL named their newest franchise, to be located in Roanoke, Virginia. The Roanoke Valley has a long hockey history, beginning in 1967 with the Salem/Roanoke Valley Rebels. The most notable team in the Roanoke Valley was the ECHL Roanoke Express, which played 11 seasons from 1993-2004. The United Hockey League’s Roanoke Valley Vipers was the area’s last minor professional hockey team, and folded after the 2005-06 season. The new Roanoke franchise will be named later this month, and will begin play in the 2016-17 season.
Last Week: 0-2-0. The Snakes lost at home on Friday to the Mississippi RiverKings 6-3, then traveled to Macon on Halloween where they were shutout by the Mayhem, 4-0.
This Week: Saturday, 11/7/15, @ Mississippi
The Cottonmouths got off to a slow start last season, losing their first seven decisions before righting the ship and having an excellent season. This season seems to be no different with the Snakes sitting at 0-3-1 in their first four games and allowing 4.5 goals per game. Coach Jerome Bechard attempted to shake up the goaltending by waiving Joel Danyluk and signing their other training camp goalie Brandon Jaeger – who gave up four goals to Macon on Saturday. Columbus has a short week, with one game at Mississippi on Saturday – perhaps they will rediscover their winning touch there.
Last Week: 1-0-0. Fayetteville defeated the Knoxville Ice Bears at home, 5-2, and won the SPHL Title Belt.
This Week: Friday, 11/6/15 vs. Huntsville. Saturday, 11/7/15 vs. Huntsville
Fayetteville overcame a pair of Bret Peppler snipes with a five-goal barrage of their own in defeating the defending champs and becoming the league’s lone unbeaten team. Sean Bonar has been impressive in net so far, putting up a 1.50 GAA and a .958 save percentage. The FireAntz special teams are leading the league with a 28.6% power play rate and a perfect penalty kill in three attempts. That’s correct… the Antz have been shorthanded only three times in two games, and that’s a big reason why they’re unbeaten.
Last Week: 1-0-0. Huntsville traveled to Georgia on Friday and defeated the Macon Mayhem, 2-1.
This Week: Friday, 11/6/15 at Fayettevile. Saturday, 11/7/15 at Fayetteville.
Kevin Genoe seems to have his mojo back. The Huntsville Havoc put together a stellar defensive performance in front of their netminder, and scored a pair of timely third period goals to secure a hard-fought road win at Macon. The Havoc will be put to the test against the resurgent FireAntz in what is shaping up to be a battle of excellent netminders. Defenseman Zach Josepher, traded to Huntsville from Pensacola, will have to sit the first game against Fayetteville as part of a two-game league suspension for elbowing.
Knoxville Ice Bears
Last Week: 0-1-0. Knoxville lost 5-2 at Fayetteville on Friday.
This Week: Friday, 11/6/15 at Pensacola. Saturday, 11/7/15 at Pensacola.
The Ice Bears dropped their first game of the season in Fayetteville, and will stay on the road this week with a trip to the Florida coast to play the Pensacola Ice Flyers. The Ice Bears are getting their offense from a quartet of newcomers. Rookie Doug Reid, Trever Hertz – who was acquired from Fayetteville for Berkley Scott, and former Louisiana IceGators Bret Peppler & Shawn Skelly. All four of the players have at least three points in the Ice Bears first three games.
Last Week: 0-1-0. The IceGators lost Friday night at Pensacola, 5-4.
This Week: Thursday, 11/5/15 vs Peoria. Friday, 11/6/15 vs Peoria. Saturday, 11/7/15 vs Peoria.
The slow-starting IceGators got burned against the Ice Flyers, finding themselves having to battle back from a 4-1 hole early in the second period. The Gators finished strong to make a game of it, but fell just short of scoring the equalizer at the end of the game. Louisiana won’t have to deal with bus legs this weekend, as they start their home schedule with a three game/three night weekend against the Peoria Rivermen.
Last Week: 1-1-0. Lost Friday, 10/30/15, vs Huntsville, 2-1. Won Saturday, 10/31/15, vs Columbus, 4-0.
This Week: Friday, 11/6/15, at Mississippi.
The Macon Mayhem found their defense this week, and put together a pair of solid defensive efforts. Goalie Garrett Bartus was solid in both games, allowing only two goals on 66 shots against Huntsville and Columbus. The Mayhem take to the road for the first time when they visit Southaven to take on the RiverKings.
Last Week: 1-0-0. The RiverKings won Friday at Columbus, 6-3.
This Week: Tuesday, 11/3/15 vs Peoria, Friday. 11/6/15 vs Macon. Saturday, 11/7/15 vs Columbus.
The RiverKings won their second consecutive game on an offensive explosion against the Cottonmouths. Five players scored goals on Friday night as they throttled the Snakes 6-3. The Kings begin a three-game home stand tonight against the defending regular season champion Peoria Rivermen, then host Macon and Columbus over the weekend.
Pensacola Ice Flyers
Last Week: 1-0-0. Pensacola, in their home opener, defeated the Louisiana IceGators 5-4 on Friday night.
This Week: Friday, 11/6/15, vs Knoxville. Saturday, 11/7/15 vs. Knoxville
Pensacola got off to a fast start on home ice against the IceGators, chasing goalie Adam Courchaine from the net early in the second period. Pensacola proceeded to withstand the IceGator counterattack and held on to win, 5-4. Joe Holka scored two goals, and Corey Banfield had three assists to pace the Ice Flyers’ offense. The defending champs make their first visit to the Hangar this weekend in a series featuring the past two President’s Cup winners.
Last Week: Idle
This Week: Tuesday, 11/3/15, at Mississippi. Thursday, 11/5/15 at Louisiana. Friday, 11/6/15 at Louisiana. Saturday, 11/7/15 at Louisiana
The quirky SPHL schedule gave the Rivermen a week off, but now have a tough four-game in five-night stretch in Mississippi and Louisiana. Peoria will try to continue the momentum from their 4-0 shutout of the IceFlyers on opening weekend. Three of these games will be without captain Dan Bremner, who is serving a league suspension for elbowing.
Our Three Stars of the Week
★★★ – Corey Banfield, Forward, Pensacola Ice Flyers. Banfield’s play-making skills were in full display against the IceGators, dishing up three assists.
★★ – Sean Bonar, Goalie, Fayetteville FireAntz. After giving up an early first period goal against Knoxville, Bonar put up a brilliant 38 save performance and kept the FireAntz’ record unblemished.
★ – Garrett Bartus, Goalie, Macon Mayhem. Bartus was a wall this past weekend, putting up a 34 save performance in a losing effort against Huntsville, then following up with a 30 save shutout of Columbus the following day.
The Sin Bin’s Power Rankings
- Peoria Rivermen (1-1-0, LW:1) – The Rivs were idle last week, so this week’s road trip will be their first true test of the young season.
- Pensacola Ice Flyers (2-1-0, LW:2) – Pensacola withstood a physical Louisiana team in their home opener.
- Mississippi RiverKings (2-1-0, LW:5) – Mississippi’s offense stayed hot against Columbus, winning their second straight game.
- Fayetteville FireAntz (2-0-0, LW:7) – The league’s lone unbeaten team has solid goaltending and a stingy defense.
- Knoxville Ice Bears (2-1-0, LW:3) – Bryan Hince and Braely Torris need to step up in net. The retooled Bears D isn’t yet up to speed.
- Louisiana IceGators (1-2-0, LW:4) – A physically bruising team, the Gators need to start faster against opponents.
- Huntsville Havoc (2-1-0, LW:8) – The defensive unit is playing well, but it takes goals to win in this league.
- Macon Mayhem (1-2-1, LW:9) – The Mayhem got some good goaltending and some offense, won their first game, and moved up a notch.
- Columbus Cottonmouths (0-3-1, LW:6) – On the bright side, the Snakes started 0-7-0 last season.
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