MOLINE, Ill. — The Quad City Storm are gearing up for the oncoming season, as only a few days separate today from opening night. It’s a new name, new league, and new team that will be hitting the ice at the TaxSlayer Center on October 20th, and most names on the roster are new to area fans. There’s a lot to learn before the season starts, but here’s a primer on the team to help get you started.
The team that head coach Dave Pszenyczny is building is one of big bodies who will deter opposing players from taking liberties with their teammates. Time and again, Pszenyczny says in interviews after a player has been signed that they “bring a physical presence”, or that they are “always there to protect his teammates”. Pszenyczny has also mentioned players being known for their hard hits, such as Bryan Arneson or Skyler Smutek being an “in-your-face’ defensemen who agitates opponents”. Storm fans should be prepared to see a more physical game than in recent years due to the signings announced so far.
Only one player from the expansion draft has been signed: Austin Hervey. However, Hervey was signed by the Atlanta Gladiators as well after his signing by the Storm was announced. As mentioned before, two have signed elsewhere — Dylan Denomme and Andy Willigar. A third, Keegan Asmundson, was signed by the Kalamazoo Wings on September 25. Whether the other two are holding out hopes for an ECHL spot, or the Storm are spacing out the signing announcements and haven’t divulged those signings yet, is a mystery. The early weeks of the season will see the most turnover of the roster as those players attempting to break into the ECHL will be returned from the trickle-down from leagues above.
While not a team observation, one thing I think that’s very important to watch as the season progresses is how the community accepts (or rejects) the team. The front office and Coach Pszenyczny has vowed that the team will be much more involved in the community than the Mallards had been, and so far they’ve followed through. Theme nights throughout the season benefitting various charities (Underwear Toss for the Homeless), chuck-a-puck money going to a different local non-profit each night, and the many appearances of the staff and coach already speak to their commitment to be involved with the community. The official Facebook fan page of the Storm has started a season-long initiative of a food drive and winter gear drive to help give back to the community. While the drives were organized by fans for the community, they have been approved by owners John Dawson and Ryan Mosley. The real test of the community won’t be how much they give at the drives or the theme nights, but at how many come to the games night after night. Drawing in fans for more than just a few games will be essential to this team, as they’re attempting to fill the void and erase the bad feelings left by years past.
“Obviously these guys are doing what they need to do in the community; I handpicked them on purpose for that reason, and guys that are 60-point guys in this league and if they’re not good in the community, I’m going to have to ask them to leave and make trades, but for the most part all these guys are doing what I’ve been asking, and it’s been a pleasure of mine.” – Storm coach Dave Pszenyczny
Ludlow Harris isn’t a top line forward or a top defenseman. A utility player, he’s put up some good numbers in his career as a playmaker, earning the assists while adding some goals of his own. He’s also put up quite a few penalty minutes, racking up 110 last season in 50 games with the Fayetteville Marksmen. Harris has the stats to make him a quick fan favorite in the Quad Cities, as he’s capable of adding both points and penalty minutes. I suspect he’ll be tough to miss on the ice, one way or another.
Joe McKeown is a familiar name to Pszenyczny, as the two were teammates in Peoria last season. McKeown played 15 games for the Rivermen last season after playing three for the Bowling Green Falcons, his collegiate team.
Eric Levine suffered an upper-body injury against Roanoke on December 23rd and placed on injured reserve on the 29th, ending his 2017-18 season. Though surgery was able to repair the injury, only time will tell how long it will take for the veteran goaltender to return to full form.
Gone but Not Forgotten:
Since the Storm are an expansion team in a market that wasn’t long without professional hockey, this section is a bit slippery. There aren’t really any players from last season that have moved since there wasn’t a last season for the Storm, but there was a season for Quad City hockey last year. So we’re going to toe and blur the line for a moment about franchises to talk about a couple players from the Quad City Mallards who could make a difference for the Storm.
Chris Izmirlian ended last season with the Mallards, but started out with the Knoxville Ice Bears and then the Macon Mayhem. In his 36 games with the Mallards, he totaled five goals with 12 assists. He was placed on Macon’s protected list but was signed by the Greenville Swamp Rabbits (ECHL) on September 15th. He joined other former Mallards Jake Bolton and Alex Globke, and two days later Stanislav Dzakhov. The first-year forward played 25 games in the SPHL between the two teams, amassing 30 points (8G, 22A).
Travis Armstrong also began last season in the SPHL but moved to the ECHL with the Adirondack Thunder. The Thunder then traded him to the Mallards after a month, the Smith Falls, ON native joining the now-defunct ECHL team in mid-January. In his 33 games with the Mallards, he totaled nine points (1G, 8A); his biggest contribution wasn’t on the scoresheet, though, as his large physical presence on the blue-line deterred liberties being taken by other players. A solid defender, he’d make a good addition to a defensive corps that already is looking like a force to be reckoned with. He was signed by the Kalamazoo Wings in late September, though his SPHL rights are still held by the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs after being placed on their protected list after the season ended.
Sin Bin Swami Sez:
I don’t expect the Storm to do anything spectacular this season a la the Vegas Golden Knights’ inaugural season, but I also don’t expect them to fail spectacularly either. I can see them making the playoffs, but don’t expect anything higher than fifth place. While it would make a great storyline to see the Storm take on the Peoria Rivermen for the Presidents Cup Final come April of next year, it’s not plausible. A first-round exit is most likely for the young team, but I don’t foresee a sweep. Am I playing it too safe by saying the Storm will be just average? Am I expecting too much of them? Part of the fun of hockey is no one knows how the season will end, as there are too many factors that could affect the results. One NHL team could be plagued with injuries, which then requires lots of call-ups in the ECHL, which then means lots of SPHL players get moved up to take those ECHL spots. The only way to find out is to stay tuned.
What do you think? Let us know how you think the Storm will do?