Training camp continues across the Southern Professional Hockey League The competitions for roster spots intensify in advance of this weekend’s preseason games. Today, we have updates from Birmingham, Knoxville, Macon, Pensacola, and the Quad Cities.
Piotrowski Shines, Goalies Battle at Bulls Camp – Ronald Hagood, Jr.
Day two has wrapped up for the Birmingham Bulls 2019 training camp. The team held a pair of split-squad practices during the morning session and a scrimmage during the evening. The team was divided between a black squad and a white squad. One of the prospects standing out has been rookie forward J.M. Piotrowski from Yale University. Coach Jamey Hicks on Piotrowski, “We’ve added some good young pieces, he’s one of the guys vying for a spot, but we’re really looking forward to how he does against opposing competition.”
One of the bigger things coming into camp has been looking for new leadership with the retirement of Craig Simchuk. Through two days of practice and scrimmages, Mike Davis seems to be willing to step up. In the two scrimmages, Davis has had a handful of goals, and his presence has been noticed on the ice. Davis is beginning his second full season in Birmingham but is one of the older faces on the team. “He quietly scored twenty-something goals last season, he scored a lot of big goals for us,” said Hicks.
The biggest thing coming into camp is the next man up in between the pipes, Artt Brey, Carson Chubak, Ian Milosz, and Ryan Pashovitz are the guys in camp looking battling it out for the spot vacated by the retired SPHL All-Star, Mavric Parks. On the goaltending competition, Hicks said, “We like our four goalies we have in camp, and they’re battling it out. We’ll have a better read after Saturday night’s game.”
The Birmingham Bulls will play a pair of home exhibition games over the weekend. On Friday night, the Pensacola Ice Flyers will make the trip to Birmingham for a game that will start at 7 PM. Then on Saturday, the Bulls will host the Macon Mayhem at 7 PM. Both games are open to the public and free to attend.
Carr Runs Ice Bears Through their Paces – J.T. Russell
The first day of training camp was one of instruction for the Ice Bears. The morning session was filled with an abundance of drills and teaching from Coach Carr. Most of the drills were team-oriented and focused on speed and implementation of the ideals in the Ice Bears way of hockey. Most of the players looked crisp for the first practice of training camp. The competition between goalies was extremely impressive during the morning session. When asked about the competitive relationship the goalies have with each other, Hayden Stewart said, “We try to be each other’s biggest supporters all the time, on the ice we always discuss how to play different situations, we’re all great teammates first.”
The evening session started with more drills and honing in on technique. The team worked both collectively and with their position. Coach Carr would lead the forwards through exercises while newly appointed Assistant Coach Spencer Metcalfe would help lead the defensemen in their drills. Two players that impressed on the first day were defenseman Alex Carlson and returning defenseman Jason Price. When asked about the movement and cardio both displayed, Coach Carr said, “Carlson and Price are two of our biggest defensemen, and showed in their physical testing that they’re ready to go from day one.”
The second day of practice was filled with more competition. Both practices featured situational 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 hockey. Leading the way for forwards was Stanislav Dzakhov as he had a solid morning skate and then scored two goals in the afternoon scrimmage. Nick DiNicola played well using his speed to dictate the play on the ice while also scoring a goal. Defensively, Price had a good afternoon scrimmage using his smooth style of play to his advantage.
Mayhem Camp Ramps Up On-Ice, Relaxes Off-Ice – Brad Harrison
The Macon Mayhem are taking a close look at players on the ice as head coach Leo Thomas and assistant coach Ryan Michel continue evaluations.
One more day into camp meant a ramp-up in intensity on Thursday for Macon, which travels to Birmingham for Saturday’s exhibition tilt.
One call that the Mayhem will have to make when it comes to that contest will be choosing which goalies will play. One potential move by Macon would be to take Alex Fotinos and Joe Young on the road. Kevin Entmaa was with the team late last year, and the Mayhem have plenty of ideas about his ability.
Macon did have two forwards arrive for camp Thursday. Jimmy Soper got to town as well as another new addition, Darius Davidson. Soper had 16 points in 36 games for Macon last year. Davidson comes from the college ranks. He spent the previous two years at American International College, playing in a combined 64 games.
The Mayhem are also finding plenty of ways to bond off the ice. Thursday night, the team had dinner at Tommy’s Bakery, while players are also scheduled to be at Tropical Smoothie on Friday.
Inside the Ice Flyers Goaltending Competition – Geoff Nichols
The Ice Flyers resoundingly answered the goalie question. The team has three goalies in camp who all have NCAA Division I experience: Jake Kupsky (Union College), Chase Perry (Colorado College and RPI), and Angus Redmond (Michigan Tech). All three have received NHL interest in the not-too-distant past. Both Kupsky (2015 by San Jose) and Perry (2014 by Detroit) were selected in the NHL Entry Draft. Redmond was signed by Anaheim in 2017 to a three-year entry-level contract after leading Michigan Tech to a Western Collegiate Hockey Association championship and setting a school record for wins by a freshman.
The Ice Flyers take on the Birmingham Bulls Friday night in Pelham, Ala. for the team’s only preseason game. With 12 forwards, seven defensemen, and three goalies, there are indeed members of this camp roster who can consider themselves locks to make the team’s opening night roster. We could see those players sit out tonight in favor of coaches Rod Aldoff and John McLean getting more looks at the guys fighting for roster spots. When reached for comment about his game plan for tonight’s game, Aldoff stated that he was “not sure yet.”
Pszenyczny Evaluating Defensive Improvements for Storm – Anna Headley
Training camp for the Quad City Storm has been running for two days now at the TaxSlayer Center. The roster won’t see any changes this week, as no cuts will be made to the Quad City Storm roster until after the preseason game in Peoria on Saturday. After two days of camp sessions, coach Dave Pszenyczny said he’s going to “Have a lot of tough decisions on Sunday and then the following Wednesday, but I like because that (it) just means that I have a very competitive game.”
No defensive pairings are set yet, as Pszenyczny said he’s “Still kind of juggling a few, I’m trying to keep them balanced. I’m really liking [Joshua] Victor and [Cody] Walsh, you know, shutdowns. I’ve got Mathias Ahmen, who’s a really smooth puck-moving defense. I’ve really balanced him out with a guy who can just get him the puck, which makes a world of difference.”
Mark Essery, who played 51 games for the FPHL Mentor Ice Breakers last season, said, “From seeing these guys [I could improve] pretty much everything. But more so timing, maybe just hands, pretty much everything. This is a pretty good league, so I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The Storm will have an intra-squad scrimmage at the TaxSlayer Center tonight from 6-8 PM, with limited concessions available and free admission.