EVANSVILLE, IN – The 2017-18 season started off for the Evansville Thunderbolts better than their 14-win inaugural campaign. During Saturday’s opening night game against the Peoria Rivermen, the Evansville Thunderbolts saw themselves with the lead they were looking to have against a perennially successful team whose spot they wanted until the Bolts let the game slip away. The Thunderbolts walked away with a point after a shootout loss. The second game of the season had the Thunderbolts once again facing the Rivermen this time bright and early in front on 5,215 screaming kids for the Education Day game. After a tough decision, this was exactly what the Thunderbolts needed after the outcome of the opening night shootout loss. A little redemption is what the Thunderbolts had in mind, which came with a solid 4-2 win over the Peoria Rivermen.
After the Education Day game, things went south. First, starting goalie Jonah Imoo took a call-up to the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL. Along with Imoo leaving back up goalie, Jeremy Brodeur headed off to the ECHL Allen Americans. In one day, the Thunderbolts were left with an empty net which needed to be filled quickly. The Thunderbolts filled that void with returning goalie Nick Kohn who last year played three games with a win and two losses. Returning to the team after getting cut right before the start of the 2017-18 season is goalie Brendan Jensen who is coming into his rookie season after two great years at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton.
The first road trip of the season sent the Thunderbolts down to Knoxville to visit the adorable Knoxville Ice Bears. Jensen’s first pro game of his career definitely did not go as the young goaltender would envision it. Jensen struggled in the loss stopping 16 out of 22 shots on net before being replaced by Kohn at the 49:53 mark of the game. The loss was tough to swallow for the Thunderbolts as they recorded their first defeat in regulation this season. The following night, the Macon Mayhem made their first visit of the season to the Ford Center. The defending champs would take the lead in the first period and never look back, handing the Thunderbolts a second regulation loss of the season 4-2.
The long road trip known to many as November hockey in Evansville is due to basketball games for the University of Evansville along with the Hadi Shrine Circus. The journey begins as the Thunderbolts travel east to Roanoke, Virginia to face off for the first meeting of the season in back-to-back games against the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs. The Rail Yard Dawgs are coming into the game tied for eighth place in the SPHL with a record of 1-1-0 with two points on the season. During the inaugural season for both Roanoke got the better of the Thunderbolts winning three out of the five games between each other. Along the same lines as last season, the Thunderbolts and Rail Yard Dawgs will only face each other three times with two of those games this upcoming weekend at the Berglund Center unless they meet in the playoffs. The Thunderbolts are making this trip with newly acquired goalie Tomas Sholl. Sholl was sent over from the Mayhem for future considerations after playing in two games in which he had one loss in regulation along with a loss coming from overtime. The real test for the Thunderbolts will be making this road trip work as they play seven out of the eight games in November away from the friendly confines of the Ford Center.
The Thunderbolts are looking to find the stability in net they had before losing both Imoo and Brodeur to call-ups on the same day. Evansville may be getting some assistance soon. Imoo was released by the Solar Bears on Thursday. His status is unknown for the weekend series at Roanoke but should to return to the Bolts.
The month’s worth of road trips should be what the team needs to pull together and pile on some wins to move back towards the top of the SPHL standings. Hang on folks; it’s going to be an exciting ride.