Fans around the Southern Professional Hockey League got their money’s worth last night. All four exhibition games played in Huntsville, Pensacola, Peoria, and Roanoke went into overtime – bonus hockey for the fans in attendance.
Today, the coaching staffs around the league have the difficult tasks of trimming their rosters to the league-mandated 22 players by close of business on Sunday. By Wednesday, the teams will have their 19-man opening night rosters set.
Birmingham Bulls – Ronald Hagood, Jr.
The 2018-19 season is already off to a better start for the Birmingham Bulls. The Bulls traveled to Pensacola on Saturday night for their lone exhibition game of the pre-season, leaving the Bay Center with a 4-3 overtime win on Josh Harris‘ walk-off score.
Rookie goaltender Ben Myers went the distance in net for Birmingham and put forth a solid effort. Myers stopped 30 of 33 shots, allowing only a single goal in each period of regulation.
Also impressive for the Bulls were two-point performances from rookie Adam Logozzo and second-year forward Shane Topf, as the team managed to score three goals on fourth-year netminder Brian Billett.
Evansville Thunderbolts – Mike Campos
The Thunderbolts were without a dancing partner for the SPHL preseason, so coach Ian Moran held an intrasquad scrimmage for the Evansville faithful at Swonder Ice Arena on Saturday night.
As one can expect with a scrimmage, the game was a high-scoring affair with a total of 14 goals scored during the regular-season warmup. What was not expected was a brief fight during an exhibition scrimmage involving Mike Fazio – a good example of the intensity between guys battling hard for roster spots.
Ben Owen tallied a pair of bogeys during the scrimmage, while Eric Salzillo continued his strong camp with four, perhaps five assists. Note: assists weren’t formally tracked during the scrimmage.
Thunderbolts broadcaster Tommy Pecoraro spoke with Moran and former defenseman Bo Driscoll, who is assisting Moran with coaching duties during camp, after the scrimmage.
“We got a good idea of what we have here,” said Driscoll, “we have a good group of guys here and we’re going to be very tough to play against.
Moran painted an overall picture, mentioning, “There was a ton of shots made. If in the season we can shoot like that we’ll put a lot of pressure and stress on the goalies and the other team’s defense.”
On tap Sunday for the Bolts is a hard skate for the 22 remaining players, followed by an off-day on Monday.
Fayetteville Marksmen – Brad Harrison
One of the bigger trends of the Marksmen during camp has been the building up of grit, toughness, and unity up and down the roster.
That was shown in a significant way during Saturday’s road exhibition game at Roanoke as Fayetteville rallied to win 4-3 in overtime after neither team scored in the first period and Roanoke led 1-0 through two.
While exhibition games are partially a mechanism to evaluate players in camp, there’s also a desire to see said players play well, and the Marksmen got just that, rallying from a 3-1 deficit in the final 15 minutes to tie the game before winning in overtime. Joe Osaka scored off a power play and Cam McDonald’s notch at 19:23 extended play to overtime, where Jake Rosen’s tally 1:53 into the period won it for Fayetteville.
Both of Fayetteville goalies saw nearly equal amounts of time. Alex Murray stopped 16-of-17 shots for the game’s first 30:01 with Jason Pucciarelli saving 16 out of the 18 shots that he faced.
Macon Mayhem – Brad Harrison
Following multiple days of on-ice scrimmages, the Mayhem now turn to the next step of training camp: cutting the roster down to 22 players by the end of the day on Sunday afternoon.
One thing to watch for the Mayhem will be if it chooses to still evaluate three goalies as camp goes on or if head coach Leo Thomas opts to use that roster spot to evaluate other skaters, therefore releasing Christian Pavlas, the third goalie behind Gordon Defiel and Jordan Ruby.
Peoria Rivermen / Quad City Storm – Anna Headley
Anna’s updates from the Peoria/Quad City preseason game may be found here.
Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs – Mike Campos
The battle to back up goaltender Brad Barone has been a major storyline in training camp this past week. All three netminding prospects, Jacob Caffrey, Tanner Creel, and Ryan Mulder each saw action in Saturday night’s exhibition against Fayetteville. Caffrey and Creel maintained clean sheets over the first and second periods, while Mulder gave up three goals in the third period and the overtime marker to Jake Rosen. The result could wind up in bad news for Mulder with Sunday’s 22-man roster cutdown looming.
The former Rivermen now in Roanoke continued to have a strong showing in training camp, particularly Michael Economos – scoring two goals on Saturday. Jordan Carvalho was off the scoresheet but put forth a solid effort against the Marksmen.
Defensively, Brian Rowland and Taylor Love continue to impress on the blue line. Love was a +2 with an assist on Saturday.