Ice Breakers Weekly Preview 10.30.19
By Jared Tennant
PHOTO: Dee Hannum
Mentor Ice Breakers (1-1-0-0, 3 pts., t-1st place - Eastern Div.) vs. Battle Creek Rumble Bees (0-2-0-0, 0 pts., 5th place – Western Div.)
The Mentor Ice Breakers begin a stretch of four consecutive games against the expansion Battle Creek Rumble Bees with a pair of road contests Friday and Saturday. The two clubs will meet again next weekend in a home-and-home series that begins in Michigan next Friday.
WHEN/WHERE: Friday, November 1, 7:35 p.m. @ The Rink (Battle Creek, MI)
Saturday, November 2, 7:35 p.m. @ The Rink (Battle Creek, MI)
LIVE BROADCAST: Battle Creek Rumble Bees YouTube
FPHL STANDINGS: Click here
MENTOR ICE BREAKERS NOTES
The Ice Breakers began their second FPHL season last weekend with a series split against the Watertown Wolves, two-time Commissioner’s Cup champions and a consistently competitive club. In the opening matchup on Friday, one-goal, one-assist efforts from Parker Moskal and Jon Buttitta powered the Ice Breakers to a 3-1 victory. Alex Morrow deflected home the lone Ice Breakers goal the following evening in a loss by the same score.
Moskal and Buttitta were both late-season additions last year, although both players took different paths to Mentor. Moskal, a California native, signed with the Elmira Enforcers early in the year before suffering an injury that kept him from suiting up for most of the season. After being traded to the Ice Breakers in February, he racked up 27 points (9-18-27) and was a key contributor as Mentor put together its best stretch of play of the season.
Meanwhile, Buttitta was a five-year player at Kent State University (ACHA Div. I) and the school’s all-time leading scorer with 271 points (121-150-271) over 175 appearances. The Cleveland-area product produced six goals and six assists for a total of 12 points over only eight games after signing in Mentor following the conclusion of his final collegiate season.
OVERCOMING OBSTACLES: The Ice Breakers found some success against Watertown despite being without some key players, including Thomas Stuart-Dant, Steven Fowler, and Tim Perks. Perhaps the main reason for the solid showing was the play of newly signed goaltender Austyn Roudebush, who stopped 68 of the 71 shots he saw on the weekend for a .958 save percentage, third-best in the league after the first week of play.
Roudebush allowed only three goals on the weekend, as Watertown’s final goal on Saturday night was scored into an empty net. Look for the 26-year-old to serve in a workhorse role as the Ice Breakers try to establish themselves early in the brand-new Eastern Division.
MIXED RESULTS: The Ice Breakers’ special teams units had an up-and-down weekend against Watertown. The penalty kill locked down the Wolves’ talented power-play unit for most of the weekend, going 11-for-12 (91.7%) over the two-game set, including a flawless 7-for-7 performance on Friday.
The power play was an issue, though, as Mentor failed to find the back of the net on six opportunities. The good news is that only the Delaware Thunder have had fewer power plays than the Ice Breakers to this point. Furthermore, Battle Creek’s penalty kill struggled immensely against the Danville Dashers throughout opening weekend, as the Dashers scored five power-play tallies in 12 chances (41.7%). If the Rumble Bees’ struggles continue, this weekend’s matchup could be just what the Ice Breakers need to jumpstart their power-play unit.
BATTLE CREEK RUMBLE BEES NOTES
As the last team announced during the FPHL’s offseason expansion, Battle Creek was put into a difficult position, quite similar to the scenario the Ice Breakers found themselves in last year. While the front office has done a tremendous job of preparing the franchise for its inaugural season, the Rumble Bees did not get off to the start they were looking for on the ice, falling by scores of 7-1 and 6-3 against the Danville Dashers on home ice.
Battle Creek will look for its first-ever win this weekend against an Ice Breakers club that can arguably relate to its early-season struggles better than any other FPHL franchise. Last fall, the Ice Breakers kicked off their inaugural campaign with six consecutive regulation losses before finally breaking through for a 6-4 win in Port Huron against the Prowlers in mid-November.
KEY CONTRIBUTORS: The Rumble Bees found twine only four times over the weekend, but a few players are already making an offensive impact. Defenseman Vince Susi leads the club with three points (1-2-3) and scored Battle Creek’s first goal in the team’s loss to Danville on Friday night. Rookie winger Carl Mansson, who netted three goals in the Rumble Bees’ preseason inter-squad scrimmage, scored last Saturday night, while center Nathan Margets added two points (1-1-2) on the weekend.
Also scoring for the Rumble Bees was forward Phoenix McElroy-Scott. Battle Creek will look for more players to step up as it takes on a Mentor defense that is off to a strong start.
EVEN-STRENGTH OFFENSE: The Rumble Bees struggled in five-on-five play during opening weekend as they were outscored 7-1. Three of the club’s first four goals have come on the power play after the Bees converted on three of their 13 power-play opportunities against Danville.
Currently, Battle Creek has the league’s worst penalty kill at 58.3 percent (7 for 12). That will certainly be a point of emphasis throughout the week as Rumble Bees Head Coach Clint Hagmaier prepares his players for this weekend’s matchup.
FAMILIAR FACES: Former Ice Breaker Ryan Alves suited up for the Rumble Bees last weekend, registering an assist and four penalty minutes. Alves spent 19 games with Mentor in 2018-19, finishing with a 5-17-12 scoring line over 19 games. Battle Creek marks the sixth FPHL franchise Alves has played for in as many seasons.
Another former Ice Breaker, goaltender Joel Eisenhower, serves as a back-up for Jacob Mullen, who had an .863 save percentage and took a pair of losses last weekend. Eisenhower played in only three games for Mentor and had a 6.78 goals-against average.
The Ice Breakers will also recognize forward Shea Carey, a fourth-year veteran who spent the last three seasons with Port Huron. Carey had an eventful offseason, as he was selected in the FPHL Expansion Draft over the summer by the Columbus River Dragons before being traded to Battle Creek in mid-September.
AROUND THE FPHL
In a battle of expansion teams, the Delaware Thunder and Columbus River Dragons had a back-and-forth series. Columbus threw the first punch by spoiling the Thunder’s home opener with a 5-2 win before Delaware responded with an 8-2 blowout victory. As a result, Thunder forwards and former Danville Dashers Ryan Marker and Brandon Contratto are tied atop the FPHL’s scoring leaders with eight points apiece.
In Elmira, the defending Commissioner’s Cup champion Carolina Thunderbirds sent an early message with back-to-back shutouts of the Enforcers in a rematch of last spring’s league finals. Thunderbirds goaltender Henry Dill started both contests and racked up 60 total saves. For context, only two FPHL goalies posted multiple shutouts last season, including four by the Ice Breakers’ Derek Moser.
In Danbury, the Hat Tricks had their opening weekend at home tarnished by consecutive overtime losses to Port Huron. The Hat Tricks will look to rebound this weekend in a pair of road games against Danville.
Mentor will become the final FPHL team to play on home ice next weekend on the back end of a home-and-home series against Battle Creek November 8-9. After that, the Ice Breakers have some tough travel as they take on Delaware in another home-and-home the following weekend. The series will begin on Friday night at Delaware Fairgrounds Center Ice Arena before moving to Mentor the following night.
The Ice Breakers, proud members of the Federal Prospects Hockey League, are in their second season of play. 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.