Ice Breakers Weekly Preview 11.6.19
By Jared Tennant
PHOTO: Jason Partanen
Mentor Ice Breakers (3-1-0-0, 9 pts., t-1st place - Eastern Div.) vs. Battle Creek Rumble Bees (0-4-0-0, 0 pts., 5th place – Western Div.)
The Mentor Ice Breakers wrap up a stretch of four games in a row against the expansion Battle Creek Rumble Bees this weekend in a home-and-home series. The Ice Breakers will host the Rumble Bees on Saturday, November 9 in their home opener for the 2019-20 season. All fans in attendance will receive a sticky schedule courtesy of CSP Insurance Solutions.
WHEN/WHERE: Friday, November 8, 7:35 p.m. @ The Rink (Battle Creek, MI)
Saturday, November 9, 6:30 p.m. @ Mentor Civic Ice Arena (Mentor, OH)
FPHL STANDINGS: Click here
MENTOR ICE BREAKERS NOTES
It has only been two weeks, but the Ice Breakers are in unfamiliar territory at the top of the Eastern Division. An encouraging series split on the road against Watertown was followed by a dominant weekend sweep in Battle Creek last weekend.
Winners of three of four games to open the campaign, Mentor will be looking to move to a franchise-best four games above the .500 mark with a pair of wins this weekend. Again, the season is only two weeks old, but the Ice Breakers are currently near the top of the FPHL in most notable statistics. The team is in a three-way tie for second place in goals scored (16) and goals per game (4.0). They have the second-best defense in the league behind Carolina, allowing only 1.5 goals per game and six goals overall.
The power play unit has converted on a respectable 18.2 percent (2 for 11) of its opportunities while the penalty kill has dominated to the tune of a 95.8 percent kill rate, ranking second in the FPHL, as Carolina has yet to allow an opposing power play to score over 20 penalty kills.
HOME COOKING: The young, inexperienced Ice Breakers of last season struggled immensely on the road, posting a paltry 6-21-0-3 mark in enemy territory. It has only taken two weeks for the club to accumulate half of its total road wins from all of last year. On home ice, Mentor was a respectable 11-14-1-2 in 2018-19. The team will look to translate some of that success into an improved performance at Mentor Civic Ice Arena throughout the season.
TOP PERFORMERS: Mentor’s first line of forwards consisting of Jon Buttitta (3-4-7), Declan Conway (3-3-6), and Parker Moskal (3-2-5) currently represents the club’s top three scorers. The trio has been one of the most impactful during the early going of the FPHL season.
More offensive help is on the way as Thomas Stuart-Dant has yet to play a game, and significant returning scorers like Mark Essery (0-2-2), Nate Farrington (0-1-1), and Steven Fowler (0 points) have yet to hit their strides. Fowler is currently serving a two-game suspension and will return to action for the Ice Breakers’ home opener on November 9.
ROOKIE CONTRIBUTORS: Three first-year players scored their first professional goals in the same game last week as Zac McKenna, Jackson Tucker, and Isaiah Crawford all found the back of the net in the Ice Breakers’ 5-0 thrashing of the Rumble Bees.
OFFENSIVE-MINDED: Blueliner Brody Duncan currently ranks third in the FPHL in scoring among defensemen with four points (1-3-4) over four games. Last year, the Toledo, Ohio, native posted a 5-21-26 scoring line over 43 appearances and was Mentor’s highest-scoring d-man.
ROUDEBUSH RISING: The offseason signing of goaltender Austyn Roudebush may turn out to be Mentor’s most important move of the summer months. The 26-year-old has dominated, ranking second in the league in goals-against average (1.26), save percentage (.959), wins (three), and shutouts (one).
GOALTENDER SIGNING: The Ice Breakers made a move to improve their depth between the pipes last week, adding netminder Braddock Otton to their roster. Otton, 22, hails from Detroit, Michigan, and has two years of professional experience in Sweden’s Division 2. Most recently, he accumulated a 2.86/.911 slash line over 16 outings with Brunflo IK. He played junior hockey for four years in the GMHL, NOJHL, and VIJHL.
BATTLE CREEK RUMBLE BEES NOTES
The Rumble Bees have certainly had their issues, dropping the first four games of their inaugural FPHL season. They are one of two clubs without a win and the only team that has yet to secure a point. However, a young team hungry for victory always presents a threat to the opposition, meaning the Ice Breakers will need to be on top of their game this weekend if they want to continue their early-season success.
The Rumble Bees will need to improve their penalty kill efforts if they hope to take down the Ice Breakers. Statistically, Battle Creek has the worst penalty kill in the FPHL at 58.8 percent (10 for 17). Their power play unit has a 12 percent conversion rate, but the Rumble Bees are in a tie within the top half of the league in power-play goals with three.
NEW FACES: Battle Creek recently made some moves in an attempt to bolster its roster ahead of this weekend’s matchup. Fresh off a one-game suspension, the Bees released forward Cliff Ogle, who racked up 44 penalty minutes over only two games, including 29 last Friday night against Mentor. The Rumble Bees signed two players in netminder Will Harvey and forward Kyle Kabacinski.
Harvey is a 22-year-old who played five years of junior hockey, including a pair with the Niagara Whalers in the GMHL. Last season with the Whalers, he had a 5.21 goals-against average to go along with an .879 save percentage and stepped up his game over five appearances in the postseason, putting together a 4.70/.902 slash line.
Kabacinski will add size to the Bees’ roster at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds. He was a three-year player at Rochester College and a collegiate teammate of former Ice Breakers Joe Swenson and Matt Kadolph. Both Kabacinski and Harvey are expected to be available for this weekend’s games.
TRADE ALERT: The Rumble Bees completed a deal with Carolina on Tuesday, sending the rights to forward Joe Cangelosi along with cash considerations to the Thunderbirds in exchange for defenseman Marc Steele.
Steele should provide a big boost to Battle Creek’s defensive corps with a 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame. The New Hampshire native dished out a pair of assists over his first two pro games this season with Carolina. He played collegiately at Springfield College (ACHA Div. III), the same school as Ice Breakers forward Nate Farrington.
MENTOR CONNECTIONS: Former Ice Breaker Ryan Alves was signed by the Rumble Bees during the offseason and suited up for two games against his old club last weekend. Goaltender Joel Eisenhower, who made three appearances in an Ice Breakers jersey last season, stopped 44 of 49 Mentor shots in the Rumble Bees’ 5-0 loss last Saturday.
Forward Vladislav Polyashov made the Ice Breakers roster out of training camp and played in one game before being released. He was promptly signed by Battle Creek last Saturday and could make his Rumble Bees debut this weekend.
AROUND THE FPHL
Carolina continues to look like the top team in the FPHL following its Commissioner’s Cup championship last spring. The Thunderbirds are off to a perfect 4-0-0-0 start following a pair of wins against Delaware and have dominated on the defensive end, thanks in large part to the efforts of Columbus, Ohio-born goalie Henry Dill.
In Danville, the Dashers are looking to erase memories of their last-place finish last season and have yet to lose through two weeks, matching Carolina’s record. Danville opened its home slate with a pair of victories against Danbury over the weekend.
Columbus and Elmira faced off in back-to-back overtime thrillers, with both teams claiming a win. The River Dragons played on home ice for the first time and drew crowds of more than 4,100 fans and nearly 2,600.
In New York, Watertown kept pace with the Ice Breakers atop the Eastern Division standings with two wins over Port Huron, outscoring the Prowlers 12-5 in the process. Wolves forwards Deric Boudreau (6-2-8) and Joseph Deveny (3-0-3) both registered hat tricks in the team’s series against Port Huron.
The Ice Breakers have some tough travel coming up as they take on Delaware in another home-and-home next weekend. The series will begin on Friday night at Delaware Fairgrounds Center Ice Arena before moving to Mentor the following night. The Ice Breakers will play host to Danville on Sunday afternoon to cap off the weekend. After that, Mentor will welcome Port Huron to Northeast Ohio for a pair of matchups November 22-23.
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.