Across the cities of the Southern Professional Hockey League, players and coaches took to the ice for the first day of training camp in preparation for the 2018-19 season openers on October 19th. Throughout the next week, the writers of Team Sin Bin will bring you notes and quotes from all around the SPHL.
Birmingham Bulls – Ronnie Hagood, Jr.
Josh Harris, the Bulls leading goal scorer from last year, appears to be in mid-season form after the first Bulls scrimmage. Harris scored twice, once on Mavric Parks and the other on Cory Simons. After the scrimmage, Coach Jamey Hicks stated he was happy with the whole day. On Josh Harris’ two goals, “He has a high compete level, I don’t think it matters if its June or late November, that’s why he’s one our leaders and that’s why he was our MVP.”
Regarding the goaltender battle, Hicks said, “We’re happy with all four of them, you know it what it is, its competition at training camp. As the week goes on, hopefully, they’ll make the decisions easier for me, but right now they’re not.”
Missing from the posted training camp roster were Andrew Darrigo & Loren Ulett who are still in ECHL camps. Evan Schultz was cut from his ECHL camp and is expected to be with Birmingham tomorrow.
Fayetteville Marksmen – Brad Harrison
The Marksmen started the on-ice portion of camp Wednesday with Jake Hauswirth and Kyle Thacker among the notables present. Jamie Hill came into the day questionable due to a lower-body injury during the team’s speed training event on Tuesday but should be set at full strength for the weekend.
Tuesday’s off-ice event, at CrossFit Guild in nearby Raeford, started camp off by building camaraderie for a team consisting of not only mostly new players, but a new coaching staff as well in head coach Jesse Kallechy and assistant Peter Worrell.
Kallechy on the first day on the ice, “I thought it was great. The pace was good, the tempo was really good. I thought the guys were working really hard today, and that’s all we can ask out of them. Everyone’s trying to give themselves the best chance they can to make this team, but overall I was really, really impressed with the first day.”
The Marksmen will have a bit more time to grow closer together with Friday’s preseason game against Macon being canceled, but Saturday’s tilt at Roanoke is still on as scheduled.
Macon Mayhem – Brad Harrison
The Mayhem’s training camp got off and going with the first mandatory day of on-ice activity as the entire roster has been split into two teams by head coach Leo Thomas and assistant coach Ryan Michel. It’s part of an effort to slim the roster down before next Friday’s season opener at home against Pensacola.
As expected, top scorers returning from last year’s team, Jake Trask, Stathis Soumelidis and Caleb Cameron were among the standouts at forward.
In goal, Jordan Ruby and Gordon Defiel appear to be the frontrunners. And while the team would not be expected to carry three goalies, Christian Pavlas had a golden opportunity to put himself in consideration in case Ruby or Defiel are injured or loaned to the ECHL. Both were in ECHL camps this year, so the odds are at least out there that given the opportunity one, if not both could be called up.
Macon head coach Leo Thomas won’t have the luxury of outside competition to help whittle down the roster, as Friday’s exhibition game against Fayetteville was canceled due to concerns presented by Hurricane Michael.
Peoria Rivermen – Anna Headley
The opening day of training camp featured no game situations, opting for a position practice followed by a goaltender practice. Trudel believes he saw enough today to know that the team should be a good one this season. “The guys seemed to have a lot of pep and a lot of speed, so I think we’re going to be okay,” Trudel said.
The first cuts will happen on Sunday after the preseason game; the roster must be reduced to 22 players on Sunday. The roster had already been cut by ECHL attendees making the season-opening roster, however. Ryan Siiro, Mark Petaccio, and Joseph Widmar will all start the season in the ECHL, with Orlando, Wheeling, and Fort Wayne respectively. Trudel says that the fact that three players made it to the ECHL this year speaks to the kind of program the Rivermen are, “We try to get serious players that want to move up, and we’re fortunate enough that those three guys made it this year.”
Trudel went on to say that the players know to be competing every day for their jobs, because “Contracts in here and in the ECHL are good for 24 hours. We have a great competition at every position.”
Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs – Mike Campos
Roanoke coach Dan Bremner had a message for his players over the summer, “If you want to make this team, you’ll have to be mean.” Fitting words from one of the league’s grittiest players during his playing days, most notably with the Peoria Rivermen.
Bremner ran the new-look Dawgs through a brisk, high-intensity session in the morning and a more relaxed, systems-based skate in the afternoon, with the forward groupings looking particularly crisp on the ice.
Meanwhile, the battle to back up the reigning SPHL goaltender of the year Brad Barone – set to return to Roanoke from ECHL Newfoundland – heating up between rookies Jacob Caffrey, Tanner Creel, and Ryan Mulder. Caffrey and Mulder are familiar to SPHL fans – both were late-season collegiate additions, Caffrey with Pensacola and Mulder seeing time with Birmingham.
This year’s roster – Bremner’s first full season as head coach – has more quality depth in the center position than the previous two years. Bremner recruited heavily from his former stomping grounds in Peoria, bringing in former Rivermen forwards Jordan Carvalho, Cody Dion, Michael Economos, and Jeff Jones. All are expected to contribute heavily during the upcoming season.
Given the change in team culture instilled by Bremner, the intensity in camp should ramp up as the team prepares for their preseason game on Saturday against Fayetteville.
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