The third day of training camps around the Southern Professional Hockey League finds most of the teams in preparations for their upcoming exhibition games and scrimmages. In Knoxville, the exhibition season opened with a contest between the Ice Bears and the defending champion Huntsville Havoc. Second-year forward Marcus Ortiz notched the first hat-trick of the SPHL preseason in the Ice Bears’ 4-1 win in the Knoxville Civic Coliseum. The long-time rivals will meet again in Huntsville on Saturday night.
The rest of Saturday’s preseason games have Fayetteville visiting Roanoke, Pensacola hosting Birmingham, and the expansion Quad City Storm making their first of many trips to Peoria.
Evansville Thunderbolts – Mike Campos
The Thunderbolts under coach Ian Moran continue to keep training camp at a game-like level with another five-on-five scrimmage. Today’s intrasquad contest was played in a three-period, 35-minute running time format with 11 players per side.
Rory Rawlyk continued his solid camp with another good performance in the scrimmage and forward Fred Hein, playing in his first SPHL season after three years in Sweden, earned high marks for his excellent communication with his teammates.
While Nick Wright may be known typically for his physical skills, finding the back of the net with a multiple-goal day. Wright has come into camp a different player after an intense offseason training and skating regimen. Wright’s skating seems to have improved greatly during camp and could become more of a factor on offense this season.
Fayetteville Marksmen – Brad Harrison
The Marksmen made the most of things despite the Friday’s exhibition game against Macon being canceled.
Friday was marked by an intense and low-scoring scrimmage that ended in a shootout. Nolan Sheeran has impressed so far from the standpoint of being a solid two-way player for Fayetteville with David Mazurek, who played in 25 games a season ago for Pensacola at center, fitting in nicely as well.
Marksmen head coach Jesse Kallechy on Friday: “Another good day, our plan today was to work on the structure and get systems down, so when we go to Roanoke tomorrow everybody’s on the same page, and we have some structure out there and everybody knows what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Fayetteville now gets the chance to clash against outside competition on Saturday, traveling to Roanoke for its exhibition game.
“It was more of a thinking day today, not everything was perfect, but the guys came in and had their thinking caps on and they executed well, so hopefully tomorrow we should be able to go out there and bring some of that stuff,” said Kallechy.
Macon Mayhem – Brad Harrison
Head coach Leo Thomas continues to work toward not only whittling the roster down to 23 players by Sunday but using competition to make the team better from top to bottom. That included a scrimmage on Friday, taking the place of a pre-game skate that was originally in place before Friday night’s exhibition game with Fayetteville was canceled.
Justin Levac and Brandon Fehd were added to the roster on Friday.
Levac’s well-traveled. At 29 years old, the left winger, who has had previous stints with the Macon franchise when it was in Augusta (2011-12) and Orlando in the ECHL the following year. He has spent the past four years with the FHL’s Danville Dashers.
Fehd will get a shot to make the roster on defense. He is no stranger to the SPHL. Last year in 50 games with Birmingham, he had a career-high 75 penalty minutes. The year before, he split time in 34 games with Pensacola and Columbus.
Quad City Storm – Anna Headley
The Storm’s locker room is gelling quickly, according to Coach Dave Pszenyczny. With the exhibition game on Saturday, Pszenyczny put the squad into a game situation with an intrasquad scrimmage. “There’s a lot of good stuff going on in the locker room right now, so really enjoying that.”
Pszenyczny put the team into a game situation with an intrasquad scrimmage at night for the fans, and he liked what he saw. “It was a little rusty at first,” said the coach, “but you expect that when you have two lines and four defensemen on each team. Towards the end, they started really getting the hang of it, and there was more positive than negative towards the end.”
Defensemen Jake Schultz and Troy Henley joined camp on Friday, as well as goaltender Eric Levine. After the blue versus gray scrimmage was won by the blue team, a shootout began. Pszenyczny spoke highly of Schultz’s moves in the shootout, saying of his dangle, “I didn’t know he had mitts like that, so that was pretty impressive.”
Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs – Mike Campos
The Rail Yard Dawgs worked on their preparations for their Saturday night exhibition against Fayetteville with a pair of sessions more resembling morning skates than full-blown practices. Coach Dan Bremner is working on putting together his roster for their lone preseason game, which will likely not feature starting goaltender Brad Barone and leading scorer Steve Mele.
Mele should still be involved in Saturday’s game in a different role. With Bremner likely observing the game from the press deck, Mele may be the one with the suit and clipboard behind the bench on Saturday.
With former captain Nick Schneider now retired and assistant captain Joe Sova no longer playing, the leadership role of the Dawgs is expected to fall on Mele’s shoulders. Look for the sixth-year veteran to become Schneider’s successor when Bremner announces the team captains in advance of the regular season opener.
Previous Camp Notes
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