Head Coach: Mike Craigen enters his seventh season (177-131-28) as the Bears’ bench boss. entering his 11th season with the organization, Craigen has been a part of three Presidents Cup teams – Two as a player (2006, 2008) and one as coach in 2015.
Captain: Defenseman Jason Price returns for 3rd season as the on-ice leader of the Ice Bears.
Last Season: 29-21-6 (64 points, 5th place) – Lost to Fayetteville, 2-1, in the first round of the playoffs.
2015-16 Season Summary – The 2015 champions dealt with an exodus of core players over the off-season, and the team went through a rough transition period over the first half of the season. After a set of mid-season moves including the trade of Ben Power to the Peoria Rivermen for Garrett Vermeersch and the signing of Boston College goaltender Brian Billett, the Ice Bears caught fire in the second half of the season. Knoxville climbed from the bottom of the standings to a 64-point, fifth place regular season finish. The Ice Bears’ hopes of back-to-back President’s Cups were dashed at the hands of a stellar goaltending effort of Parker Van Buskirk and his Fayetteville FireAntz. The Antz came back from a Game 1 loss to take the opening-round series, 2-1.
Hot or Not?
Hot. The Ice Bears were one of the hottest teams in the league over the second half of the season, sparked by the mid-season signing of Brian Billett. Billett, the 2nd year pro from Boston College was instrumental in last season’s turnaround. With Billett returning in net (after a season-opening stint on IR,) the Ice Bears should continue to have consistent goaltending. The returning forwards will be bolstered by the return of Berkley Scott from Fayetteville, and the arrivals of veterans Adam Stuart and Kyle McNeil. The Ice Bears allowed 165 goals (2nd highest) last season and will continue to struggle in the defensive zone.
- G Brian Billett – 14-4-3 last season with a 2.42 GAA and .921 SV%, Billett is a pre-season candidate for Goalie of the Year.
- D Jason Price – Beginning his tenth SPHL season, and fourth in Knoxville, Price had a career-high in assists last season with 26.
- F Trever Hertz – Hertz was highly effective (14G/32A/+11) in Knoxville since being traded from Fayetteville over the 2015 off-season.
- F Dennis Sicard – The feisty, high-energy player found himself a victim of the league’s veteran cap, and was released over the summer. Signed by the Macon Mayhem.
- LW Corey Fulton – The big enforcer retired after six seasons, 256 pro games, and 1,121 penalty minutes.
- C Berkley Scott – Returning to Knoxville after a season in Fayetteville, Scott is still rehabbing from a horrifying leg injury.
- RW Adam Stuart – The former Peoria Rivermen forward had a great season in Illinois, despite a slight drop in production.
- C Kyle McNeil – The blue-collar veteran forward from Huntsville and Fayetteville was a big off-season target for coach Mike Craigen.
Movin’ On Up
- Billett – After an impressive training camp with the ECHL Atlanta Gladiators, this should be the year when he makes the jump.
Sin Bin Swami Says… Top to bottom, this edition of the Ice Bears is the deepest and most talented group since the advent of the veteran cap. If the roster holds up, the Bears are the consensus favorite to hoist their fifth President’s Cup.
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