KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – After a bumpy opening weekend, the Knoxville Ice Bears are looking for consistency in the second weekend of the SPHL season. The season started with a home opener loss to the Evansville Thunderbolts. However, the Ice Bears would bounce back with an overtime victory against the Fayetteville Marksmen the following night. Ultimately, Knoxville failed to capitalize on several scoring opportunities and impose their game plan on opponents.

On Monday, the Ice Bears would trade Dylan Vander Esch to Fayetteville for future considerations. Knoxville received the rights to Joe Kalisz from the Marksmen to complete the deal. Vander Esch played in two games for the Ice Bears and was a -1 in those two games. Knoxville also placed Brian Bachnak on the 21-day injured reserve as a result of an injury he sustained against Fayetteville.

On Tuesday, the Ice Bears signed Forward Dwyer Tschantz to a contract. Tschantz is a big-bodied forward who played college hockey with Hayden Stewart at Cornell. Tschantz played his first season of professional hockey with the Maine Mariners last year, where he played in 50 games and tallied 16 points (9G, 7A). Look for Tschantz to play a heavy game and use his big body to dominate Knoxville’s small rink.

Knoxville would also sign Forward Jacob Benson to a contract. Benson spent his collegiate years at St. Cloud State. In his time at St. Cloud State, Benson accounted for 56 points (27G, 29A) and played a gritty, exciting style of hockey. Look for Benson to bring a hard forechecking style to his play.

Hours before tonight’s puck drop, Knoxville announced the trade of Stanislav Dzakhov to the Evansville Thunderbolts for future considerations. Dzakhov is a talented player whose skillset will be a very welcomed commodity in Evansville. When asked about the trade, Coach Jeff Carr said,  “I feel our puzzle has new pieces that may fit our style better.” The Ice Bears hope Tschantz and Benson are the key pieces to their puzzle.

The Ice Bears will look to pick up their second win of the season against the Fayetteville Marksmen Friday night. Fayetteville will bring a talented squad into Knoxville that gave the Ice Bears fits last Saturday night. Knoxville will need to slow down Luke Stork and Kyle Moore if they want to control the game. Danny Tirone was a standout performer for the Marksmen in the net. The Ice Bears will need to once again overload Tirone with shots on goal to beat him.

Knoxville follows up this one-game weekend against Fayetteville with a home and home series with Roanoke. Following the Roanoke series, the Ice Bears will play three games against their rival Huntsville Havoc.

Roanoke started the season with a two-game series in Pensacola against the Ice Flyers. Roanoke lost both games but was able to get a point with the second loss coming in overtime. Even with the slow start, the Rail Yard Dawgs are still a good team that will be a force to be reckoned with this season. Roanoke’s leadership core is anchored by veteran blueliners Travis Armstrong and Joe Sova. Former Peoria netminder Stephen Klein is one of the top goaltenders in the league and is a challenge for any team to beat.

Huntsville, looking to three-peat as SPHL champions, began their title defense with a win against their in-state rival Birmingham. On the following night, the Havoc would be defeated by the Macon Mayhem in a very hotly contested game. Huntsville returns a veteran-heavy roster with players such as Sy Nutkevitch and Nolan Kaiser that will continue to build off of their success in the last two years.

Follow J.T. Russell on Twitter at @SinBinIceBears.

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