The Decision: 2016 is near.

Sometime tomorrow, former Columbus Cottonmouths goalie Shannon Szabados will announce which team she has signed with for the 2016-17 season. The world champion and two-time gold medalist for Canada is linked to the ECHL Elmira Jackals & Atlanta Gladiators, the Huntsville Havoc, and a return to the Canadian national team for the 2017 IIHF Women’s Worlds and a third Olympic gold in Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018.

The 30-year-old netminder from Edmonton has taken to social media recently to hint at Tuesday’s announcement, posting pictures in her Cottonmouths and Team Canada attire…..

Enough. Let’s get to the actual news from the Southern Professional Hockey League. We have plenty to cover.

For a short time last week, the SPHL became the Stevens Point Hockey League. Last Thursday, four players from D3 national champion Wisconsin-Stevens Point signed with SPHL teams, advancing an assault of alliteration on Twitter. Forwards Evan Dixon and NCAA Division 3 All-American Joe Kalisz signed with the Fayetteville FireAntz, while defenseman Sean Gammage and forward Logan Lemirande went to the Pensacola Ice Flyers.

The league released the playoff format for the 2017 President’s Cup Playoffs and rule changes today. Eight of the SPHL’s ten teams will make the postseason. Teams will be re-seeded for the league semifinals, and all series will be best-of-three. Again, President’s Cup finalists may agree to play a best-of-five series, as the Pensacola Ice Flyers and Peoria Rivermen elected last season.

Major rule changes from last season include:

  • Game misconduct penalties for players removing headgear while preparing to engage in fisticuffs.
  • Players shooting the puck out of play from the defensive zone will be assessed a delay-of-game penalty
  • Teams which ice the puck will not be able to use their team time-out to make player substitutions.
  • Teams will change ends in overtime and shootout periods as is the current practice across pro hockey. Teams will have to deal with the long line change in 3-on-3 overtime periods.

The big re-signing of the week belonged to the Mississippi RiverKings. Todd Hosmer inked his return deal to the Kings last week after a 46-point (20G/26A) season in a time-share between Mississippi and the Knoxville Ice Bears. Hosmer spent the last two seasons with the ECHL Wichita Thunder, scoring 46 points (23G/23A) in 78 games. The fifth-year veteran may be tapped by coach Derek Landmesser to replace Leo Thomas as the next team captain.

In last week’s Into The Sin Bin podcast with Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs coach Sam Ftorek, we were able to confirm that all six draft picks – goalie Ryan De Melo; forwards Massimo Lamacchia, Jackson Brewer, & Steve Mele; and defensemen Travis Armstrong & Tim Boyle – have all signed contracts for training camp. Boyle has also signed a PTO with the ECHL Alaska Aces.

In case you missed it… check out our interview with Dawgs coach Sam Ftorek. It’s worth a listen. While you’re at it… Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes! Android user? No problem!

The Peoria Rivermen were active after the retirement of goaltender Kyle Rank. The Rivs returned two players (Steve Morra & Josh Harris) and signed two Division 1 rookie blueliners (Northern Michigan’s Luke Eibler & Denver’s Nick Neville).

In addition to signing Gammage and Lemirande from Wisconsin-Stevens Point, the defending champion Pensacola Ice Flyers added another collegiate rookie to their camp roster. Brent Tate, a forward who played his #CawlidgeHawkey at Bowling Green, will vie for a roster spot next month.

The expansion Evansville Thunderbolts signed two to their camp roster recently. Forward Tommy Fiorentino, returning to the States after two seasons in France and defenseman Ben Kramer, formerly with the Louisiana IceGators. Kramer was solid on the blue line for the Gators, with a +4 plus/minus while adding 11 assists. Finally, rookie netminder Tyler Parks signed a PTO with the Elmira Jackals.

In Knoxville, the Ice Bears announced the return of second-year defenseman Rich Ledy to their training camp roster. Ledy began last season in the FHL with Dayton and Berlin before moving up to the SPHL. Ledy finished last season with the Ice Bears with a +11 plus/minus rating over the last 21 games of the regular season.

Finally, the continuously active Huntsville Havoc signed forward Lou Educate to their camp roster last week. Educate spent parts of the last two seasons with the Knoxville Ice Bears. Havoc coach Glenn Detulleo spent the past weekend in Ames, Iowa, to hold his free-agent camp and exhibition games with the Iowa State Cyclones. The ACHA powerhouse Cyclones won both games in the series by convincing scores of 9-2 and 7-2. Forward Johnny Henson (2G/1A) and defenseman Bobby Killian (2G/0A) led the Huntsville prospects in scoring over the weekend.

Only 32 more days until the puck drops on the SPHL season. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/sinbinsphl and on Facebook at facebook.com/sinbinsphl.

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