The heartburn of the 2014-15 season has passed. Friday night is something we all have been waiting for, for a long time. As much as the tumultuous previous campaign weighed on all of us, it is easy to see that it weighed on Richard Matvichuk even more. The frustration, anger, and pain could be seen in his (usually) stoic face after every loss last season.
The page has turned. A new day has dawned, and there are plenty of things to be excited about. Being around this team for the last couple of weeks, the level of excitement internally is palpable. Looking at the squad that Matvichuk has put together, with the help of assignments from Bridgeport, it is easy to see why.
This team is built on youth, balance, and speed. There is grit, toughness, and loads of experience on the blue line. The forwards can fly and move the puck with incredible pace. Scoring can come from up front, or the defensemen jumping up into the rush. The netminders are quick, agile, and proven. Unfortunately, this is an “on paper” assessment for the most part, because we haven’t seen this team together in a game situation yet. Over the years, we’ve had incredible “on paper” teams, but it all comes down to putting it together on the ice.
Having talked to a few of the players leading up to Friday night’s season opener, they all talk about how the chemistry has been building by the day. Chemistry isn’t quantifiable, but it is as important as any other aspect of the team. Last year’s team never felt like they had tremendous chemistry on the ice. So to hear that the players feel like they are really starting to click is music to the ears.
Let’s take a look at who we’ll see on the ice Friday night in Anchorage:
Colin Markison, Tyler Barnes, Tanner Fritz, Rocco Carzo, David de Kastrozza, Scott Allen, Jesse Root, Josh Holmstrom, Andrew Courtney, Kellen Jones, Danick Paquette, Sebastien Sylvestre
We all know what Andrew Courtney brings to the table, but the other guys listed above are riddled with talent. Tyler Barnes is the reigning ECHL Rookie of the Year, racking up 34 goals and 40 helpers in 71 games with Toledo last season. Markison and Holmstrom have impressed since arriving from Bridgeport. Sebastien Sylvestre has wowed with his offensive abilities as well. This is a great mix of grinders, playmakers, and scorers.
Kane Lafranchise, Bryce Aneloski, Patch Alber, Chris Owens, Trevor Ludwig, CJ Ludwig, Kyle Burroughs, Wes Cunningham
Aneloski is a proven player at the AA level. Alber and Owens made their mark last season, and look to take the next step. We are all familiar with Trevor Ludwig, and can only hope that he has a lot left in the tank. Burroughs seems like a guy that the coaching staff is excited about, and he put up solid numbers in the WHL. With Matvichuk’s obvious infinity for the defensive side of the puck, this is a group that will only get better and tougher as the year progresses.
Parker Milner, Josh Robinson
Robinson returns for another season in Independence. Once he found his groove after returning from Europe, he quickly became the best option between the pipes for this team. He seemed to get better and better as the season carried on, before suffering a lower body injury that prematurely ended his season. Milner comes on board, but he’s far from an unknown. After a successful stint with the Quad City Mallards last season, where he finished second in goals against average and fourth in save percentage, Milner signed a deal with Bridgeport this offseason, which couldn’t have worked out better for the Mavs. Milner and Robinson could be quite the tandem if they can push each other throughout the season.
Excitement fires in our veins anytime a new season is just around the corner. It’s human nature. Last season was a rough one for the Orange Army, but the times of feeling jaded are hopefully behind us. The players are excited to hit the ice and prove that 2014-15 was an anomaly. They’ll get their chance, starting Friday night in Anchorage.