MOLINE, Ill. – With the recent blizzard that a large part of the Midwest received last weekend, I’d like to be in a warmer clime. Somewhere a bit more south near the mountains. But I won’t move south for the winter because I’m actually rather fond of snow — six inches or less of it, though. While I won’t be leaving the Quad Cities any time soon, let’s take an imaginary trip, however, to Greenville, SC, or as I like to call it, Quad City South, to check in on some former Quad City Mallards.
Five former Quad City Mallards landed in Greenville following the final Mallards season. Phil Axtell, the last head coach of the Mallards, had signed as the assistant coach on July 20. Ten days later, however, he left Greenville to become an assistant coach with a USHL team, the Dubuque Fighting Saints. The Fighting Saints are currently sixth in the Eastern Conference, having an 8-8-1-2 record.
Before Axtell stepped down as the assistant coach with the Swamp Rabbits, defenseman Jake Bolton and forward Alex Globke signed with the South Carolina-based team. First to sign with Greenville was Globke, who appeared in 70 games and totaled 36 points (12G, 24A). Bolton was a mid-season blue-line bolster after being acquired from the Florida Everblades to finish a trade in July 2017 that sent Nolan LaPorte to the Sunshine State. In 52 games with the Flock, Bolton scored five times and added 13 assists. The defenseman also had a -13 rating, which isn’t surprising considering the team had a -99 goal differential.
The next former Mallard to sign with Greenville was Chris Izmirlian, a forward. Izmirlian joined the Mallards in mid-January out of the SPHL, having seen action with the Knoxville Ice Bears and Macon Mayhem before making the jump up. The Yale graduate put up five goals and 12 assists in his 36 ECHL appearances last season, adding eight goals and 22 assists between the two SPHL teams.
The final Mallard to fly south for the season was Stanislav Dzakhov. Dzakhov joined the Flock out of Niagara University at the very end of March and appeared in the final five games for the team. In those five games, he scored three times and registered a single helper. Two of Dzakhov’s goals came in the final game in Mallards history, one the game-tying marker and the other the game-winning goal.
What drew the three players remaining south to Greenville? It was, in part, the weather. While Quad City is cold, snowy, and dark currently, in South Carolina it’s still golfing and t-shirt weather. Downtown Greenville has a lot of things to offer, according to Globke, and each of the three guys said there’s more to do off the ice in Greenville compared to Quad City. It’s hard to disagree with that, as there are few outdoor activities during the winter months in Moline.
“They [Greenville and Quad City] are pretty similar as far as how much I’m enjoying it, but what you do to fill up your time outside of the rink is pretty different,” said Bolton.
Coach Kevin Kerr was also a large part in the signings.
“For me, it just came down to options,” said Globke about signing with Greenville. “Actually, so the coach in Quad City last year had a relationship with Kevin Kerr, and he put in a good word for me here in Greenville, and Kerrsy called me and said he wanted me, and he just seemed really interested, so I just decided that you know, I would come here and … enjoy, because there were a couple different options, but I was like the others here in that I wanted to be in the South, a little warmer.”
“For me, one of the biggest ones was Coach [Kevin] Kerr,” said Izmirlian. “I actually played for him a little in Macon for two or three weeks before I was in Quad, so it was a pretty easy decision for me, just to be with a familiar coach.”
Family also played a part in Izmirlian’s decision to join the Swamp Rabbits.
“My family’s from Florida, so I thought it’d be very easy for them to come to a lot of the road games, and even to come to a lot of the home games…, because they love coming to as many games as they can.”
For Bolton, good words from Izmirlian and Globke set him on the path to Greenville.
“Things were in the works with a bunch of different teams, but then I actually got a phone call from Izzy, and he said that he knew Coach Kerr from playing for him before, and was looking into going to Greenville, and then a day or two later I actually heard from Globes (Globke), and he said the same thing, that he had an offer on the table from Greenville and was considering it. And you know, after that I called my agent and said if there’s anything I can work out with Greenville, that would be incredible. I think it would be a great place to play, I definitely want to be in the South division.”
Izmirlian added that knowing two of his former teammates were going to be there “kind of sealed it up for me.”
The Mallards fans, and their dedication to the team, stuck out to the guys.
“It was tough to hear that the Mallards were folding in the first place,” said Bolton, “because my original plan was to stay there for this season, but then you know the last weekend where everyone supporting the team found out we weren’t going to be around anymore, the turn-out that we saw at those games was incredible, and to see all those fans and how upset they were that hockey was going to be gone, hearing that we had a team coming in was great for them.”
Izmirlian has 11 points in 23 games, good for fourth on the team. Bolton, in 22 games with Greenville this season, has eight points (5 G, 3 A). Globke missed roughly four weeks due to injury this season, but recently returned to the lineup. In his four games this season, he has yet to make a contribution to the score sheet. After five games with Greenville, all without a point, Dzakhov was released by the Swamp Rabbits. He now has 11 points (5G, 6A) in six games with the Knoxville Ice Bears. If Quad City fans want to see him again, Knoxville will be coming north on January 11.
To keep track of Bolton, Izmirlian, and Globke throughout the season, follow @SinBinRabbits on Twitter for coverage of the Swamp Rabbits.