ICE BREAKERS PREVIEW VS. DANVILLE DASHERS
By Jared Tennant
PHOTO: The News Herald
Mentor Ice Breakers (9-27-0-2, 29 pts., 6th place) vs. Danville Dashers (12-24-0-2, 40 pts., 5th place)
The Mentor Ice Breakers will take on the team directly ahead of them in the FHL standings this weekend as they battle the Danville Dashers in a three-game series. The opening contest will take place this Friday night at Mentor Civic Ice Arena before the two teams travel to Danville, Illinois, to play the final two games. Fans can use the promo code "222" to get two tickets for $22. This offer excludes the Founders Room and is only available via online pre-sale.
WHEN/WHERE: Friday, February 22, 7:35 p.m. @ Mentor Civic Ice Arena (Mentor, OH)
Saturday, February 23, 8:05 p.m. @ David S. Palmer Arena (Danville, IL)
Sunday, February 24, 6:05 p.m. @ David S. Palmer Arena (Danville, IL)
LIVE BROADCAST: TFMSports.com
Port Huron Prowlers
Mentor Ice Breakers
MENTOR ICE BREAKERS NOTES
The Ice Breakers have a chance to get back on track this weekend with three very winnable games against Danville. Despite a couple of hard-fought efforts, Mentor dropped a pair of games against the Carolina Thunderbirds last weekend by scores of 4-1 and 3-1. The Ice Breakers’ defense played exceptionally well against the T-Birds’ top-ranked offense, but Mentor was unable to score enough against Carolina’s vaunted goaltending tandem of Henry Dill and Christian Pavlas to pull off an upset win.
At this point in the year, watching the standings isn’t really a priority for the Ice Breakers. They need to string together a few wins before they have a real shot at making a run at a playoff spot. Mentor is kicking off a stretch of nine games in a row against Danville and the Watertown Wolves, so now is as good a time as any to get back into the thick of things in the FHL standings.
Goaltenders Derek Moser and John Sellie-Hanson put together two quality starts last weekend. Moser stopped 13 of 14 shots through two periods before a flurry of Carolina goals in the 4-1 loss, while Sellie-Hanson saved 28 of the 31 shots he faced on Saturday night against the T-Birds.
It appears defenseman Brody Duncan will be unavailable for at least one of the games this weekend. Duncan, who has six points (2-4-6) over his last four games, is listed as suspended pending an official league review following last Saturday’s game against Carolina, which got physical as tempers flared in the final period. Hopefully, Duncan will be available for at least this Sunday’s game against the Dashers.
Forward Declan Conway has been a different player since returning from injury three weeks ago. The Painesville, Ohio, product and former Lake Catholic Cougar has nine points in his last nine games and has begun to establish himself as a physical presence. With the recent return of Conway and the addition of forward Tommy Mahony last week via trade, the Ice Breakers are a much tougher squad.
In order to win this weekend’s series and gain some ground on the Dashers, who are 11 points ahead of Mentor, the Ice Breakers need to regain their goal-scoring touch. Outside of an 11-goal outburst against the Port Huron Prowlers on February 9, the Ice Breakers have not scored more than three goals in a game since January 19. They have only scored one goal on five occasions during that stretch, which is simply not enough to win in an offensive-minded league like the FHL.
DANVILLE DASHERS NOTES
The Danville Dashers got through a tough stretch with a brand-new head coach and a much-improved squad. The Dashers have dropped 18 of their last 23 games, but one of those wins was an impressive 4-3 victory over Elmira on February 8. Danville has proven it’s capable of competing with the best the FHL has to offer, but the Ice Breakers won’t be overmatched this weekend, as evidenced by their 7-2 win over the Dashers back on January 19.
Like the Ice Breakers, Danville has struggled mightily on the road. Their lone road win since November 21 came through a come-from-behind effort in a 4-3 win over Mentor on January 18. The Dashers are 13 points out of the fourth and final playoff spot and will also be looking for some valuable points this weekend.
Forwards Justin Brausen (18-26-44) and Daniel Martin (17-24-41) are the only double-digit goal scorers currently listed on Danville’s roster. Brandon Contratto has five goals and 15 assists for a total of 20 points, but he has only appeared in 18 games for the Dashers. Former Ice Breaker Ryan Alves has eight points (4-4-8) over 13 games since being traded to Danville.
Between the pipes, netminder Matt Kaludis has carried the load in what has been a very up-and-down year for the veteran netminder. Kaludis has been in the FHL since 2016 and has played with three different clubs. Over his career, he has a 3.64 goals-against average to go along with a .903 save percentage over 97 games, numbers that are quite similar to his 4.04 goals-against and .906 save percentage in 29 appearances this year. The Ice Breakers will almost certainly face Kaludis, which could be a bad sign if the Trenton, Ontario, native is on top of his game.
In terms of special teams, Danville and Mentor are about as evenly matched as they can be. The Dashers’ power play unit is converting on 16.6 percent of its opportunities, compared to 17.2 percent for the Ice Breakers. Danville is killing off 80.7 percent of opposing power plays, while Mentor is at exactly 80 percent.
AROUND THE FHL
The Watertown Wolves nearly pulled off an impressive sweep of their in-state rivals, the Elmira Enforcers, but the Enforcers rallied for a 5-1 win in the third and final game of their series. Watertown also recently snapped a franchise-record 11-game losing streak while putting a halt to Carolina’s FHL-record 24-game winning streak with 3-2 victory over the Thunderbirds in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on February 10. Now, Watertown will be tasked with a full slate of games this weekend with a pair of matchups against Carolina and a Sunday night game against Port Huron.
The Prowlers are one point ahead of the Wolves, but Watertown holds three games in hand and consequently leads the Prowlers based on a higher points percentage. Port Huron will face Elmira in a pair of road games before taking on the Wolves.
The FHL scoring race is currently led by Tyler Gjurich with 66 points (34-32-66). Elmira’s Ahmed Mahfouz (21-43-64) and Port Huron’s Dalton Jay (30-34-64) are right on his tail, while Carolina’s Jan Salak (21-36-57) and Josh Pietrantonio (17-38-55) are still in the mix. At this rate, the league scoring champion likely won’t be decided until the final week of the regular season.
The Ice Breakers will play three games against Watertown next weekend, including a pair of home games on Saturday and Sunday. After that, Mentor will again battle the Dashers in a three-game series March 8-10.
The Ice Breakers, proud members of the Federal Hockey League, are in their inaugural season. Single-game tickets and ticket packages are available 24/7 online at mentoricebreakers.com/tickets. They can also be purchased at the box office prior to every home game or by calling (440) 290-8502.