LAFAYETTE, LA — May you live in interesting times – Traditional Chinese Curse – which is neither Chinese nor traditional.
Despite the dubious origins of the now-ubiquitous axiom, the Evansville Thunderbolts are undoubtedly interesting after the opening week of the SPHL season. The Bolts began the 2017-18 season a much-improved team, not only withstanding but thriving during their two-game trial-by-fire against the Peoria Rivermen – a team which gave Evansville a ton of adversity in their inaugural season. Furthermore, had it not been for Brandon Lubin‘s third-period elbowing major (later reversed by the league to avoid the mandatory suspension), we could easily be looking at a 2-0-0 Evansville squad after the opening weekend.
As if on cue, the Thunderbolts get interesting. On Wednesday, Evansville’s goaltender situation went nuclear. An early-season injury to the ECHL Allen Americans starting netminder Riley Gill resulted in Jeremy Brodeur signing a contract with the two-time Kelly Cup champions. No sooner than the Americans make the announcement of Brodeur’s promotion, the Orlando Solar Bears, looking to fill an open netminder spot on their roster, bring aboard Jonah Imoo. Imoo started both of Evansville’s games last week, playing solid in both contests. Bolts boss Jeff Pyle, now scrambling to find someone to occupy the crease in time for Friday’s trip to Knoxville, signed camp goalie Nick Kohn on Thursday.
Meanwhile, long-suffering Evansville fans are going…
Elsewhere in the league, four more teams (Fayetteville, Knoxville, Pensacola, and Peoria) are having their home openers tonight. Personally, I want to be at the Pensacola Bay Center as much as possible. Not because I’m suddenly an Ice Flyers fan, but because Pensacola owner Greg Harris announced in a message to fans there will be POUTINE at the Hangar’s concession stands.
Poutine, a dish which is basically french fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy, is the greatest thing to come out of Canada other than Wayne Gretzky himself. As a New Orleans native, I’ve had the sandwich form of poutine, the potato po-boy – french fries covered in cheese and roast beef gravy (we locals call it debris) on french bread. You have no idea how lucky y’all are, Pensacola.
Sidebar: It’s a bad idea to write articles at lunchtime. Time to talk hockey before I eat my keyboard.
We’re only a week into the season and player callups to the ECHL are already at a midseason pace. We will keep tabs on all of our boys called up on our player tracker. Be sure to check it out!
Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs at Macon Mayhem – 7:35 ET
Live on The Sin Bin Mobile App! Pregame begins at 7:15 ET
- Last season, the Dawgs took the first two of the six-game series with the Mayhem winning the final four. Macon took the season series, 4-1-1. This season, the teams will face each other seven times.
- Jake Trask scored 11 points (5G/6A) against Roanoke last season, leading the team in goals, assists, and points. Trask has scored the first goal in the previous four meetings.
- Roanoke netminder Ryan de Melo had had two of his best games against Macon last year. The Elmira (NY) College alum earned both of the Dawgs winning decisions against Macon with a shutout, a 0.97 GAA and .973 SV%.
- Last season, Macon outshot Roanoke by a margin of 41.83-27.67 per game. The Dawgs allowed 38 shots last week in their lone game against Fayetteville.
- @SinBinSwami sez: Both teams will be looking for their first win and Macon should be extra motivated after a lackluster opening weekend. Who am I kidding… the hangover continues – Roanoke 4, Macon 2.
Title Belt Game
Mississippi RiverKings at Pensacola Ice Flyers – 7:05 CT
- The Ice Flyers won four of last season’s seven meetings, going 4-1-2. Pensacola also leads the all-time series record, 28-9-5. The teams will play seven times again this season.
- Pensacola netminder Sean Bonar was named The Sin Bin’s first star of the week and the SPHL’s player of the week following a 36-save shutout of Macon on opening night.
- Mississippi’s Devin Mantha and Ralfs Grinbergs are among the league’s scoring leaders with three points. Both players have two goals and an assist.
- The last shutout in the series was on 2/24/15, a 4-0 RiverKings win. Peter Di Salvo made 39 saves in the game at Landers Center.
- @SinBinSwami sez: It’s hard to bet against Bonar, but the RiverKings should prove to be a more formidable opponent than Macon was last week. Mississippi 2, Pensacola 1 (SO)
Huntsville Havoc at Fayetteville Marksmen – 7:00 ET
- Tonight is the 90th all-time meeting between the teams. The Marksmen lead the series 45-36-8. Last season, Fayetteville took the season series with a 3-1-1 record. The teams will face each other four times this season.
- Fayetteville captain Jake Hauswirth scored three goals against Huntsville last season. Hauswirth is also in a ten-way tie for the league lead in points with three points – all assists.
- Havoc goalie Keegan Asmundson is second in the SPHL in both GAA with 1.00 and a save percentage of .964.
- Last season with Pensacola, Matt Zenzola faced Huntsville six times, going 1-2-1 with a 2.79 GAA and .907 SV%.
- @SinBinSwami sez: The Havoc have a talented squad. However, I see the Marksmen taking full advantage of the home crown. Fayetteville 4, Huntsville 3.
Evansville Thunderbolts at Knoxville Ice Bears – 7:35 ET
- The Bolts and Bears will meet seven times during the 2017-18 season. Last year, the Ice Bears took the season series with a 4-2-1 record.
- Last season, Kohn spent time with both the Ice Bears and Thunderbolts. Although not appearing in any games with Knoxville, Kohn finished last season with the Bolts, going 1-2-0 with a 2.84 GAA and a .906 SV%
- Berkley Scott has had plenty of success against Evansville with two goals (both game-winners) and six assists.
- Evansville’s Justin MacDonald matches Scott’s stats, except MacDonald has only a single game-winning goal.
- @SinBinSwami sez: Despite losing both opening night goaltenders to the ECHL, this is a game the Thunderbolts should win – just by a closer margin. Thunderbolts 4, Ice Bears 3.
Birmingham Bulls at Peoria Rivermen – 7:15 CT
- Last meeting: February 25, 2001, at Carver Arena. The Rivermen defeated the Bulls, 4-2.
- In the ECHL, the Rivermen owned a 4-1-0 all-time record over the Bulls. The lone Birmingham win was almost 21 years ago, a 4-3 win in Birmingham on 11/22/1996.
- This season, the Bulls and Rivs will meet five times. This weekend’s two-game set is the only time this season Birmingham travels to Carver Arena.
- Peoria has a league-worst penalty kill at 66.7 percent. Birmingham is 0-for-3 on the power play.
- @SinBinSwami sez: The Rivermen are 1-0-0 after a regulation loss to Evansville and Birmingham has never won at Carver Arena. The Bulls first win there won’t be tonight. Rivermen 5, Bulls 1.
- Huntsville at Fayetteville – 6:00 ET
- Macon at Evansville – 7:15 CT
- Birmingham at Peoria – 7:15 CT