Head Coach: Kevin Hasselberg makes his professional coaching debut after a long Junior-A career in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Captain: Previous team captain Adam Pawlick retired after last season, and a new captain has yet to be named.
Last Season: 31-20-5 – 67 points – 2nd place regular season finish – Won 2016 President’s Cup with a 3-0 series win over the Peoria Rivermen.
2015-16 Season Summary – An early season trade during the 2014-15 season which sent Huntsville Havoc forward Nick Lazorko to the Ice Flyers for set off an unlikely chain of events last season which would lead to the timeliest goal in SPHL history. Lazorko would be traded during early season struggles to the Fayetteville FireAntz for John Clewlow. In mid-season, the Ice Flyers – still struggling for consistent scoring outside of the Corey Banfield-Adam Pawlick-Joe Caveney line – dealt Clewlow to the Knoxville Ice Bears for Josh Cousineau. The former Ice Bear scored one goal during the 2016 President’s Cup playoffs for the Ice Flyers. Cousineau’s sole postseason tally was the Cup-winning goal, scored with one-tenth of a second remaining in regulation – giving Pensacola a 5-4 win, and a 3-0 series sweep over the Peoria Rivermen.
Hot or Not?
Warm. With great success comes great transition. After his second SPHL championship in three years, Head Coach Rod Aldoff made the move to the ECHL by taking the head coaching position of the Norfolk Admirals. Joining Aldoff in Norfolk are forward Paul Rodrigues and defensemen Anthony Calabrese & Mike Kreig. Also, team captain and 62-point scorer Adam Pawlick, defenseman Ryan Kesti, and forward Joe Holka retired after the season. Also gone from this year’s roster are high-scoring winger Joe Caveney and the tough-as-nails blueliner Jeremy Gates.
The defending President’s Cup champs aren’t completely dismantled. Corey Banfield will return to the team, along with playoff hero Josh Cousineau & power-play ace Stephen Buco. Goaltender Matt Zenzola, a perfect 7-0 in the postseason and playoff MVP, returns to Pensacola along with John McLean to backstop the Flyers.
- RW Corey Banfield – The SPHL’s leading scorer from last season (32G/36A/68P) returns for his 5th SPHL season. Banfield will go for his third straight 60-point season this year.
- C Stephen Buco – Buco spent his off-season in Germany for a month-long tryout in the elite DEL with ERC Ingolstadt.
- G John McLean – Had a breakout rookie season with the Ice Flyers, going 19-10-3 with a .920 SV% and a 2.39 GAA. Has the size at 6’9″ and the developing skills to be a dominant netminder.
- C Adam Pawlick – Retiring after two President’s Cups, two All-SPHL nods, and a scoring title. Pawlick’s departure is a huge hole in the Flyers’ top line and in leadership.
- RW Joe Caveney – Pawlick’s linemate was not signed by the team and is not signed by any other pro team.
- D Anthony Calabrese – The rookie defenseman made a big impact at the end of last season, and has joined Aldoff with ECHL Norfolk.
- F Louis Belisle – The former Columbus Cottonmouth comes to the Ice Flyers after a 27-point season (12G/15A) in 30 games.
- F Jesse Stoughton – With the OHL Sarnia Sting, Stoughton played with NHLers Nail Yakupov (St. Louis) and Alex Galchenyuk (Montreal).
- D Sean Gammage – The big 6’4″ blueliner was a force to be reckoned with at Stevens Point, and should become the focal point of a young defensive corps.
Movin’ On Up
G Matt Zenzola. Impressed last season with the ECHL Evansville IceMen, it’s only a matter of time before Zenzola makes the jump to the next level.
Sin Bin Swami Says… Pensacola Bay Center to begin measuring time in hundredths of a second. Despite the losses of key personnel and a new coach, there may be some growing pains. Still, the organization is loaded with people who know how to win. Ice Flyers make another top three regular season finish and a good shot at another President’s Cup Final appearance.