ICE BREAKERS WEEKEND PREVIEW VS. ELMIRA
By Jared Tennant
Mentor Ice Breakers (5-11-0-0, 15 pts., 6th place) vs. Elmira Enforcers (6-9-0-2, 20 pts., 5th place)
After splitting games against Port Huron and Danville last weekend, the Mentor Ice Breakers will welcome the Elmira Enforcers to the Mentor Ice Arena for the first time ever this Friday and Saturday in a matchup of the Federal Hockey League’s two expansion clubs.
WHEN: Friday, December 21, 7:35 p.m.
Saturday, December 22, 7:35 p.m.
WHERE: Mentor Civic Ice Arena—Mentor, OH
LIVE BROADCAST: TFMSports.com
|Port Huron Prowlers|
|Mentor Ice Breakers|
MENTOR ICE BREAKERS NOTES
This weekend could be pivotal for the Ice Breakers, who recently snapped a four-game losing streak. If things go their way, they could leapfrog Elmira in the FHL standings and, depending on the results of Port Huron’s games, could take control of the fourth and final playoff spot. A poor showing could force Mentor into an 11-point hole at the bottom of the league.
Right now, the Ice Breakers are in sixth place, five points behind the Enforcers. They have one game in hand on Elmira, to which they lost by a 6-3 final in the only meeting between the two clubs so far.
Mentor has a busy schedule for the remainder of December, playing six games in the final 11 days of the month, including four games in the last week of the year. That stretch includes the Ice Breakers’ Picture Perfect New Years’ Eve game, sponsored by Linda Terdan Photography and followed by a New Year’s Eve postgame skate party as well as a countdown to midnight sponsored by the Mentor Ice Arena.
The Ice Breakers had a bit of a goal-scoring problem over the last few weeks, but hopefully last Saturday’s 6-0 win over Danville ended that stretch. The FHL is a high-scoring league in which netting three or four goals per night doesn’t always garner positive results.
Netminder Derek Moser returned to form in the win over Danville, making 28 saves en route to his third shutout of the season, tying him with Carolina’s Christian Pavlas for the most in the league.
Moser has been a workhorse since netminder Matt Camilleri was waived earlier this month. The Tomah, Wisconsin, native has a 3.01 goals-against average and .912 save percentage. He has started all but one game since November 24 and has accounted for all five Ice Breakers wins.
Forward Mark Essery is tied for fourth in the FHL with 12 goals through 16 games. Overall, Essery has a team-high 20 points (12-8-20) with a hat trick and a two-goal game under his belt.
Gordy Bonnel is close behind Essery with six goals and 12 assists for a total of 18 points. The 26-year-old has at least a point in nine of his last 10 games, with seven multi-point efforts during that stretch. He has demonstrated the ability to contribute in multiple ways on the offensive end, scoring some highlight reel goals and serving as playmaker last Saturday when he dished out a season-high three assists.
Rounding out the Ice Breakers’ top scorers are Ryan Alves (5-6-11), Brett Oldaker (5-6-11), and Thomas Devesvre (2-7-9). Mentor’s offense got off to a slow start this season, but the Ice Breakers have now scored the third-most goals in the league despite playing in one fewer game than four other clubs.
This weekend could reveal a lot about where the Ice Breakers are headed. Claiming all six possible points could put them in a playoff position, while losing both games in regulation could create a gap in the standings that would take weeks to recover from.
ELMIRA ENFORCERS NOTES
The Elmira Enforcers have the goaltending to succeed, but it seems as if they’ve suffered more narrow losses than any other team. The Enforcers are three games below .500, but that’s the result of a staggering seven losses by two goals or fewer to Carolina.
Elmira has been close on several occasions, but they just can’t seem to break through for an elusive win over the Thunderbirds. Carolina’s Christian Pavlas carried his team to a two-game sweep over the Enforcers last weekend, posting back-to-back shutouts by scores of 1-0 and 2-0.
Elmira seems to play a brand of hockey similar to Carolina’s, which is based on strong defensive play and timely goals. But it has yet to use that formula to take down the Thunderbirds, who have built an 11-point cushion at the top of the FHL standings.
Led by netminders Troy Passingham (3.36/.909) and Ryan Mulder (2.02/.918), Elmira has had the second-best defense in the league, allowing just 3.18 goals per contest. Despite being in fifth place, the Enforcers are one of three teams with a positive goal differential (plus 2).
Passingham has a 3-8-2 record, but the former Danville Dasher has put up solid numbers and probably deserves more wins to his name.
Sean Reynolds (8-12-20), Cameron Yarwood (4-8-12), and Glen Patterson (2-8-10) represent the top three scorers on Elmira’s active roster. Reynolds has contributed in several different ways, leading the club in power-play goals (three), shorthanded goals (two), and game-winning goals (two).
The Enforcers have size up and down their roster, with an average build of 6-foot-1, 192 pounds. They have also shown more discipline than any other team, with just 333 PIMs on the year. Elmira averages just under 20 penalty minutes per game, a low number for the FHL.
Elmira will not go down easy, and the Ice Breakers will need to work for all of their goals. We should be in for an entertaining series this weekend at Mentor Ice Arena.
AROUND THE FHL
The Port Huron Prowlers are picking up steam after briefly falling into last place earlier in the month. The Prowlers have won four of their last five games, including a 3-2 win over the Ice Breakers on December 14. Port Huron has a top-heavy roster, led by 20-point scorers Yianni Liarakos (12-12-24), Matt Graham (5-19-24), and Dalton Jay (10-11-21).
The Prowlers, who are now tied with Elmira for the fourth seed, seem to have finally found a reliable backup for starter Cory Simons (3.07/.920). Chris Paulin has started two games, both wins, and has stopped 91 of the 95 shots he has faced.
Port Huron will host Watertown in a two-game series this weekend. The Wolves have arguably the deepest roster in the FHL and will be a good measuring stick to see how far the Prowlers have come.
Watertown recently lost Brandon Wahlin to a Southern Professional Hockey League call-up. Wahlin, who had 28 points (6-22-28) in only 14 games with the Wolves, already has two goals in two games with the Knoxville Ice Bears.
If any team can recover from losing a talented player like Wahlin, it’s the Wolves. With Tyler Gjurich (19-10-29), Gavin Yates (14-14-28), and Anton Lennartsson (8-11-19), Watertown’s offense is in good hands.
The Ice Breakers are back in action at home the day after Christmas, taking on Carolina. After that, the two teams will travel down to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to finish out a three-game series Friday and Saturday.
After wrapping up their series in Carolina, the Ice Breakers will return home for their New Year’s Eve game against Port Huron.
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.