LAFAYETTE, La. — Welcome back to our first edition of SPHL GameDay, our weekly preview column highlighting the upcoming games across the league. We’re starting our fourth year writing this series of essential pregame reading. We enjoy putting this series together and we hope you enjoy the read.
Pensacola’s Scoring Woes Reach a Critical Point
The Pensacola Ice Flyers’ season-long scoring drought is beginning to reach historical levels. The three-time Presidents Cup winners are now, at 1.75 goals per game, the lowest scoring team in all of North American professional hockey. Through 16 games going into this weekend, the Ice Flyers have lit the lamp a paltry 28 times.
Most surprised of all on Pensacola’s lack of offensive production is head coach Rod Aldoff. “Never as a player, never as a coach,” revealed Aldoff on the scoring drought, “never on the squirt team I coached for my son. Never seen it.”
Fortunately for the Ice Flyers, as lethargic as the team has been offensively, their defense and goaltending have been outstanding. Pensacola has allowed only 2.2 goals per game over the last five games and the recently signed Keegan Asmundson allowed only one goal in each of his two starts last weekend against the Knoxville Ice Bears.
The Ice Flyers record when scoring four or more goals in a game is 3-0-0, most recently last Friday on the strength of Josh Cousineau‘s natural hat trick. If Pensacola can get out of their scoring funk, look for the wins to add up accordingly.
Tonight’s Game Capsules
Title Belt Game: Quad City Storm at Peoria Rivermen – 7:15 CT
- The Peoria Rivermen are 4-0-1 against the Storm this season, most recently with a 2-1 win on Thursday morning.
- When on the road, either win big or lose big: When away from the TaxSlayer Center, the Storm are 2-2-0 in games decided by four goals.
- If they can’t shoot…: The Rivermen have allowed a league-record ten shots on goal in each of their last two games, and lead the league in shots allowed at 24.75 shots allowed per game.
- The Not-so-Cold War on 74: The penalties fly when these two teams battle. Playing against Peoria has rung up 43.6 percent of the Storm’s league-high 266 penalty minutes. Meanwhile, Peoria has been whistled for 39.2 percent of their 186 penalty minutes when playing their in-state rival.
- Sin Bin Swami sez: The Rivermen have been rolling defensively, and you know what they say about defense… Rivermen 4, Storm 1.
Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs at Knoxville Ice Bears – 7:30 ET
- The teams meet for the third time this season, with the Ice Bears leading the series with a 1-0-1 record, last winning in Knoxville on November 2 by a 4-2 margin.
- The Dawgs will once again be without the services of Maxime Guyon (30-Day IR – Nov. 18), who has been the biggest thorn in the Ice Bears’ side with two goals and three assists.
- Knoxville’s goaltending took a hit this week with Mason Pulde being placed on team suspension for undisclosed reasons. Pulde had his first shutout of the season on Saturday night in Pensacola and was 2-1-0 with a 1.97 GAA and a .941 SV% in four appearances this season.
- Man-Disadvantage: The Dawgs lead the SPHL with four shorthanded goals. However, in the season series, Knoxville has scored once while on the penalty kill while Roanoke has not yet victimized the Ice Bears’ power play unit.
- Sin Bin Swami sez: The Ice Bears score in bunches on home ice, and look for them to break out again tonight. Ice Bears 4, Rail Yard Dawgs 3.
Fayetteville Marksmen at Macon Mayhem – 7:30 ET
- The Mayhem has had the Marksmen’s number this season, winning all three of their previous meetings – the last a 4-1 win in Fayetteville on November 3.
- All Trask, all the time: Macon’s Jake Trask – the league’s scoring leader with 20 points (9G/11A) – has four goals with an assist against Fayetteville.
- New guy makes good: Acquired from Pensacola in a trade on November 26, forward Brian Bowen has five points (2G/3A) in four games with the Marksmen.
- Starting out early: Macon is a perfect 10-0-0 when scoring the first goal of the game.
- Sin Bin Swami sez: This has all the makings of a trap game. Fayetteville proved to be giant-killers against Peoria, but Macon seems to have their groove back. I’m calling upset. Marksmen 3, Mayhem 2.
Huntsville Havoc at Evansville Thunderbolts – 7:15 CT
- The Havoc traveled to the Ford Center on opening weekend and took home a 6-3 win in the only meeting between the teams this season.
- Huntsville netminder Mike DeLaVergne has been in a slump, dropping his last five starts. DeLaVergne’s last win was against Pensacola on November 9.
- Oddly enough… Evansville’s Edwin Minney – now in the ECHL with the Wichita Thunder – has also lost his last five starts, last winning on November 8 against Fayetteville.
- Five’s the magic number: All three of Evansville’s wins this season has come when the Thunderbolts struck five times in a game.
- Sin Bin Swami sez: The Havoc has allowed five or more goals four times this season. The fifth time won’t be tonight. Havoc 4, Thunderbolts 1.
Pensacola Ice Flyers at Birmingham Bulls – 7:30 CT
- The Bulls have won all three of their previous games against the Ice Flyers. On December 2, the Bulls took down the Flyers in Pelham, 3-1.
- Three’s a crowd: The Bulls have scored three goals in each of their three games against the Ice Flyers. Pensacola has scored a total of three goals against Birmingham.
- Two of Pensacola’s goals against the Bulls have come on the stick of now-Marksmen Bowen.
- Extreme measures: At home, the Bulls have the top power-play percentage at 25.0%. On the other end, the Ice Flyers have the league’s worst road power-play at only 10.0%.
- Sin Bin Swami sez: It’s only fitting that the league’s most anemic offense breaks out against one of the league’s stingiest defenses. Let’s call another upset. Ice Flyers 3, Bulls 2.
On Deck for Saturday
- Fayetteville at Roanoke – 7:05 ET
- Quad City at Knoxville – 7:30 ET
- Pensacola at Macon – 7:30 ET
- Huntsville at Birmingham – 7:00 CT
- Peoria at Evansville – 7:15 CT