ICE BREAKERS PREVIEW VS. PORT HURON PROWLERS

By Jared Tennant

PHOTO: Dee Hannum

Mentor Ice Breakers (6-17-0-1, 19 pts., 6th place) vs. Port Huron Prowlers (8-15-2-1, 29 pts., tied-4th place)

(W-L-OTW-OTL)

Following last weekend’s road trip in which they dropped games to the Watertown Wolves and Elmira Enforcers, the Mentor Ice Breakers will play a home-and-home series against the Port Huron Prowlers this weekend, starting Friday night at Mentor Civic Ice Arena.

WHEN/WHERE: Friday, January 11, 7:35 p.m. @ Mentor Civic Ice Arena (Mentor, OH)

                             Saturday, January 12, 8:00 p.m. @ McMorran Place (Port Huron, MI)

LIVE BROADCAST: 1/11: TFMSports.com

                                   1/12: ebw.tv

LEAGUE STANDINGS

TEAM

GP

W

L

OTW

OTL

PTS

W%

GF

GA

DIF

PIM

STREAK

Carolina Thunderbirds

26

22

3

0

1

67

.859

106

50

+56

725

W 13

Watertown Wolves

24

13

9

2

0

43

.597

98

92

+6

479

L 1

Elmira Enforcers

25

11

10

1

3

38

.507

88

71

+17

482

OTW 1

Danville Dashers

25

9

15

1

0

29

.387

79

101

-22

542

W 1

Port Huron Prowlers

26

8

15

2

1

29

.372

89

104

-15

542

L 1

Mentor Ice Breakers

24

6

17

0

1

19

.264

76

115

-39

771

OTL 1

 

MENTOR ICE BREAKERS NOTES

As the Mentor Ice Breakers are discovering firsthand in their inaugural season, being in a six-team league can be extremely forgiving. For all of the Ice Breakers’ struggles in the first half of the season, there is a possibility that Mentor could find itself in a playoff position if things go its way.

Over the next two weeks, the Ice Breakers will take on the Port Huron Prowlers and the Danville Dashers. Those two teams are tied for fourth place in the FHL with 29 points apiece, 10 more than the Ice Breakers. With Danville playing red-hot Carolina this week and Port Huron battling Elmira, Mentor can put itself in playoff position with strong play over the next couple of weeks. Three of the Ice Breakers’ next four games are on home ice, which could help tremendously.

Port Huron and Mentor have split their four-game season series so far, with three of the four matchups having been played in Michigan. Additionally, three of four games between the two clubs have been decided by two goals or fewer. The Ice Breakers logged their first win in franchise history over the Prowlers on the road back on November 17.

Danville and Mentor’s season series has been a bit confusing simply because the Dashers are a different team than they were early in the year when they blew out the Ice Breakers in back-to-back games. Danville has won two of three meetings between the two clubs, but Mentor won the most recent game by a 6-0 final on December 15.

The Ice Breakers have been hit hard by the injury bug recently, but they’ve managed to stay competitive on most nights. They’re finally getting some key pieces back, which is a good sign for the club moving forward. Mentor welcomed back second-leading scorer Gordy Bonnel (8-13-21) last weekend, and he scored a goal in just his second game since returning from an upper-body injury. Forwards Tim Perks and Declan Conway remain out for the foreseeable future, but the additions of Matt Kadolph and Steven Fowler should help the Ice Breakers in the meantime.

Kadolph and Fowler were signed mid-season, and both players have played well so far. Kadolph has already netted three goals in seven games and has been involved in some entertaining scraps, while Fowler notched an assist in his first period with the Ice Breakers last weekend.

Forward Mark Essery remains Mentor’s leading goal scorer, but he hasn’t found the back of the net since December 21 against Elmira. Instead, Essery has been contributing in other ways, as evidenced by his seven assists over the last five games. Defensemen Brody Duncan (2-10-12) and Thomas Devesvre (2-9-11) have both reached double-digit points in recent games. Duncan scored his second goal of the campaign against Elmira last weekend, while Devesvre remains out with a lower-body injury.


PORT HURON PROWLERS NOTES

The Prowlers are a team that seems to play everybody close despite sitting seven games below .500. They’ve been involved in a ton of one- and two-goal games, including a 3-2 loss to Danville last weekend and a 5-4 loss to the Ice Breakers on New Year’s Eve.

Port Huron enters the weekend having dropped five of its last six games after splitting a series with Danville. They’ve been a difficult team to figure out, especially since they’ve had to deal with the losses of Austin Daae (6-7-13 in 5 GP) and Yianni Liarakos (13-17-30). Daae has three goals and five assists in 15 games with the Birmingham Bulls of the SPHL, while Liarakos chose to play professionally in Hungary.

Goaltender Cory Simons (3.34/.914) was recently loaned to the SPHL’s Quad City Storm. The two goalies currently listed on the Prowlers’ roster are Chris Paulin, who has played in two games, and Rick Odria, who has logged a 5.06 goals-against average and a .868 save percentage.

The Prowlers are still without forward Matt Graham, who has put together an 8-26-34 scoring line in 24 games. Graham suffered a nasty-looking injury in Mentor on New Year’s Eve. Port Huron’s active roster features a quartet of 20-point scorers in Dalton Jay (13-16-29), Zachary Zulkanycz (11-12-23), Matt Robertson (10-12-22), and Matyas Kasek (9-12-21). After that, the only other double-digit scorer is Jonathon Juliano, who has collected a pair of goals to go along with 10 assists.

Port Huron recently made a trade with the Carolina Thunderbirds, sending defenseman Mike Baker to Winston-Salem in exchange for Tom Kilgore and Artur Drindrozhik, who has a pair of goals and two assists in nine games. Kilgore has yet to appear in a game this season but has scored 36 goals while dishing out 46 assists in 105 career games in the FHL.


AROUND THE FHL

The Carolina Thunderbirds have now reeled off 13 wins in a row, including victories over the Watertown Wolves and Elmira Enforcers last weekend. The win over Elmira was the T-Birds’ eighth consecutive against the Enforcers. Carolina is the only team Elmira hasn’t beaten since joining the league as an expansion team along with the Ice Breakers this season.

Thunderbirds netminder Christian Pavlas was recently called up to the Fayetteville Marksmen of the SPHL. Pavlas leads the FHL in every major statistical category, and this promotion seems to be long overdue. At just 22, Pavlas could have a bright future in pro hockey ahead of him. The Slovakia native joins Henry Dill as two Carolina netminders to receive call-ups this season. Dill has made three starts with the Macon Mayhem, posting a strong 1.58/.926, and the Columbus, Ohio, native could have an equally bright future after posting such dominant numbers at only 23 years of age.


WHAT’S NEXT

Next weekend, Mentor will host Danville in a two-game series. After that, the Ice Breakers will face off against Carolina in a three-game series January 25-27. Mentor will play the first two games of the series in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, before heading home for a Sunday afternoon matchup against the Thunderbirds.

 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.