Hurricane Michael made its way today from the Gulf Coast region across the southeast, affecting our friends out in Macon, Fayetteville, and as far out as Roanoke. The Mayhem would wind up missing a day of practice after feeling the effects of the historically strong storm, but hockey players are a resilient bunch. Nine of the ten teams took to the ice today, and Team Sin Bin was out at the rinks and burning up the phone lines to recap the second day of SPHL training camps.
Speaking of… Dana Barker, one of our SPHL writers, also works as a meteorologist. Barker’s been on storm duty, covering Michael for WLTZ-TV in Columbus. Barker will be back with us soon to provide camp updates from Huntsville, Knoxville, and Pensacola.
Birmingham Bulls – Ronald Hagood, Jr.
Day two of Bulls training camp started with a mix of good and bad news. The good, second leading scorer Evan Schultz arrived for camp. The bad, Andrew Darrigo, one of Birmingham’s protected players and top defensemen signed a contract with the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers on Wednesday.
Speaking with Craig Simchuk and Josh Harris after the Bulls scrimmage, the common word used by both forwards is speed. “We definitely have some new guys coming into the line up that have speed and skill,” said Simchuk. Harris, who is going into his sixth season in the SPHL, mentioned, “(The scrimmages) have been at a high tempo pace. A lot of fast, young kids out here… Trying to keep up.”
Rookie Mike Davis had a pair of goals during the Bulls scrimmage. Newcomer Kasey Kulczycki scored his second goal in as many scrimmages as he looks to make the Birmingham roster.
Evansville Thunderbolts – Mike Campos
After an opening day of conditioning drills, coach Ian Moran split the team up for a pair of 60-minute scrimmages for today’s practice session. Shayne Morrissey, recently arriving in camp from ECHL Norfolk, put up a hat-trick in the opening session. The second scrimmage was a high-scoring affair with 16 goals scored by both squads. Eric Salzillo scored three goals along with free-agent camp invitee Ryan Marker.
Coach Moran emphasized his desire for scrimmages, saying, “I thought it was important to get the guys in game action and play five-on-five.”
“Tomorrow, I’d like to do a little bit differently and rather than have the running time for 60 minutes, I’d rather go with 35 minutes and try to keep the pace higher,” said the first-year coach.
Moran, with his years of NHL experience, is proving to be an influence on the team, drawing plenty of respect in the locker room. One player Moran brought into camp, veteran defenseman Rory Rawlyk, seems to be filling the on-ice leadership hole left by former captain Cory Melkert, now with the Pensacola Ice Flyers. Rawlyk, most recently in the ECHL with the Florida Everblades during the 16-17 season, has AHL experience with Hartford and Binghamton and has played several seasons in European leagues.
Look for Rawlyk’s name to be called when Moran hands out captaincy letters.
Fayetteville Marksmen – Brad Harrison
If there are two words to describe Fayetteville’s camp so far, they are competition and intensity. With a crop of young players plus a handful added on Thursday, there’s no shortage of will to compete for the Marksmen.
In fact, Thursday was marked by on-ice intensity from not just the players fighting for roster spots, but the coaches as well.
Tyler Palmer arrived on Thursday, and his experience will be welcomed in the locker room. He played in 43 games in the SPHL last year, 12 with Fayetteville, scoring two goals in those games with the Marksmen.
Jamie Hill, on the other hand, continues to work his way back from injury, hoping to be 100 percent for Saturday’s exhibition game at Roanoke.
Fayetteville head coach Jesse Kallechy on Thursday: “[The intensity level] was great. We added a couple of really good players to our Training Camp roster today, and I think any time that guys see quality players like that come in, the competition level always goes up. There’s a lot of guys working hard here to make the roster, the guys did a really great job today of competing and battling, and really showing what they can do today.”
Macon Mayhem – Brad Harrison
Hurricane Michael continued to impact the Mayhem on Thursday. The Macon Coliseum’s business offices were closed Thursday as a result of the storm, preventing access to the ice for the Mayhem.
The unexpected break will be short-lived with Macon scheduled to resume training camp on Friday. So far, the Mayhem don’t have any players limited in on-ice sessions due to injuries, a trend that they obviously hope continues.
Quad City Storm – Anna Headley
Coach Dave Pszenyczny is still juggling lines for the exhibition game in Peoria, as he and Rivermen coach Jean-Guy Trudel are debating whether to dress 20 or 18 men for the contest. “That’ll determine who I’m playing and who I’m not playing,” Pszenyczny said about the agreement.
Austin Hervey, formerly with the Knoxville Ice Bears, impressed Pszenyczny today. “Playing against him,” said the Storm coach, “I know what he was all about, but seeing him on the ice you really see everything and the little things that he does right, and the patience that he has, and the quick release on his shot.”
Not surprisingly, there are no guaranteed spots on the Storm roster. While there were some players who made ECHL season-opening rosters, there’s no promise they’ll stay there after opening weekend. “Players trickle down… you know, guys who are supposed to be in the American League are in the NHL might get bumped down, which bumps a guy down to East Coast, which bumps someone down to us,” said Pszenyczny.
Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs – Mike Campos
The Rail Yard Dawgs met the media today during their first camp session held at the friendly confines of the Berglund Center, taking questions from members of the Roanoke area media outlets.
The Dawgs first held a goaltenders’ workout prior to the main practice session. Coach Dan Bremner then ran the team through another intense set of drills in the morning skate.
The afternoon session began with another focus on systems before splitting up the team for a five-on-five scrimmage. Jeff Jones was one of the standouts during the scrimmage. Formerly with the Huntsville Havoc and Peoria Rivermen, Jones returns to the SPHL after spending last season playing in France.
On the other side of the blue line, the defensive unit seems to be lagging behind the forwards for the second straight day of practices. During the daily update, Roanoke broadcaster Brian Gardner attributes this to the scarcity of blueliners currently in training camp, although Taylor Love, Brian Rowland, and newcomer Nate O’Brien stood out.
Finally, the team reports no injuries after two days of practice and there may still be players coming in from the ECHL.
Follow Team Sin Bin on Twitter