Weekly Preview 2.28.20
By Jared Tennant
PHOTO: Barry Booher
Mentor Ice Breakers (14-25-0-3, 45 pts., 4th place - Eastern Div.) vs.
Port Huron Prowlers (23-14-4-0, 77 pts., 2nd place – Western Div.)
Mentor Ice Breakers (14-25-0-3, 45 pts., 4th place - Eastern Div.) vs.
Danville Dashers (22-15-2-3, 73 pts., 3rd place – Western Div.)
The Mentor Ice Breakers wrap up a four-game homestand and kick off a three-game road swing this weekend as they battle the Port Huron Prowlers on Friday and Saturday at Mentor Ice Arena before heading to Danville, Illinois for a matchup against the Dashers to close out the weekend.
Friday's contest is Game Show Night, with fans having the opportunity to win prizes in unique promotions during intermissions and media timeouts. On Saturday, the Ice Breakers will host their first-ever Pucks 'N Paws Night as fans are invited to bring their dog to the game. Dog tickets are available for $5 and require both a participant form and a waiver form.
vs. Port Huron
Friday, February 27, 7:35 p.m. @ Mentor Ice Arena (Mentor, OH)
Saturday, February 28, 6:30 p.m. @ Mentor Ice Arena (Mentor, OH)
Sunday, March 1, 6:05 p.m. @ David S. Palmer Arena (Danville, IL)
FRI./SAT.: Mentor Ice Breakers YouTube channel
FPHL STANDINGS: Click here
MENTOR ICE BREAKERS NOTES
It’s been a hectic week for the Ice Breakers (14-25-0-3). There’s been an abundance of player movement and a ton of new faces are in town to fill out the roster as the club plays its final three games of the season against Western Division opponents.
ROSTER UPDATE: Numerous players will be added ahead of tonight’s action. Some are expected to be temporary additions while others are anticipated to remain with the Ice Breakers through the end of the season. Below is a summary of players joining the club throughout this weekend:
|FORWARDS||F Brendan MacKenzie, F Tyler Houmard, F Paul Hannah, F/D Billy Rapone, F Cory Mehl|
|DEFENSEMEN||D Ty Rickabaugh, D Josh Lemke|
|GOALTENDERS||G Kent Nusbaum|
MacKenzie is one of the players expected to remain with the Ice Breakers moving forward. The Stoutville, Ontario native appeared in 13 games in his first professional season with Bolinas IS in Sweden’s Division 3. The 23-year-old put up a 21-27-48 scoring line over 36 outings with the North York Renegades (GMHL) a season ago.
Nusbaum will likely garner playing time this weekend with three games in three days. He participated in the Ice Breakers’ training camp in 2018 and had a .922 save percentage over a pair of games with the Watertown Wolves last year. Nusbaum has been listed as a backup for six different ECHL teams since 2017 but has made only one appearance in the league.
Fans will see plenty of new faces don an Ice Breakers jersey this weekend. Turnover at this point in the season is never ideal, but the remaining core of players are more determined than ever to turn things around. The roster should begin to clear up next week as the team prepares for another three-in-three weekend against Elmira and Delaware.
WHEELING AND DEALING: The Ice Breakers made a splash on Thursday afternoon, sending F/D Jiri Pestuka back to his former team, the Carolina Thunderbirds, in exchange for F Toni Lampo and D Ramil Talipov. For more information on Lampo and Talipov, read the full release on the trade here.
HOMETOWN HERO: F Declan Conway is still out with injury. Conway leads the Ice Breakers with 52 points (29-23-52) on the year and ranks third in the FPHL in goals (29). If he's able to return to the lineup soon, Conway will add a much-needed jolt alongside the additions of Lampo and Talipov.
HOME COOKING: G Jordan Brant has had a rough go of things on the road, but the 6-foot-4, 205-pound netminder has stepped up his game at Mentor Ice Arena. Brant has posted a 2-3-0-1 mark on home ice to go along with a 3.09 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage. With the release of G Frankie McClendon, Brant will serve in a featured role moving forward.
PORT HURON PROWLERS NOTES
The Prowlers (23-14-3-0) have split their last four games since last seeing the Ice Breakers on February 15. Port Huron topped Danville on February 16 thanks to a two-goal effort by F Austin Fetterly and 38 saves from G Blake Scott before being outscored 11-4 in a two-game sweep against Carolina.
The team played a rare weekday contest on Wednesday evening at McMorran Place, besting Battle Creek 3-1 after falling behind in the opening period. Port Huron holds a four-point lead on third-place Danville in the race for the second seed in the Western Division and the home-ice advantage in the first round of the Commissioner’s Cup playoffs that comes with it.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: F Matt Graham (17-48-65), F Dalton Jay (26-28-54) and F Austin Fetterly (22-24-46) are Port Huron’s top scorers. Graham is tied for third place in the FPHL scoring race. F Zachary Zulkanycz (14-30-44), F Brandon Contratto (11-33-44), F Justin Portillo (19-18-37) and F Jonathon Juliano (7-17-24) round out the Prowlers’ core group of forwards.
SEASON SERIES: Port Huron has dominated its matchups with Mentor this year, winning seven of eight games. The Ice Breakers’ lone win came on November 23 when G Austyn Roudebush made 54 saves and F Declan Conway scored twice and dished out a pair of assists in a 6-3 victory.
ON THE ROAD: The Prowlers have been mediocre away from home, posting an 8-9-3-0 record. However, Port Huron has won three of four games against the Ice Breakers at Mentor Ice Arena, including consecutive two-goal victories the last time these two clubs faced off in Northeast Ohio on November 22 and 23.
EMBARASSMENT OF RICHES: There may not be a team in the FPHL that possesses a group of goaltenders that can compare to those found on Port Huron’s roster. The Prowlers currently list four goalies on their active roster, and somehow G Chris Paulin has the worst stat line. Paulin has logged a 3.29 goals-against average and .917 save percentage while adding a pair of shutouts, fantastic numbers in the FPHL.
G Cory Simons (2.97/.921) and G Michael Santaguida (3.00/.938) have been elite while G Blake Scott (2.36/.942) is having a breakout year, recording a flawless 9-0-0-0 mark.
BIG-NAME SIGNING: The Prowlers made headlines this week by signing F Mike Rupert, a two-time OHL champion with the London Knights who has experience suiting up for the Toronto Marlies (AHL) and spent five seasons in the ECHL. Rupert’s impressive resume makes him another important player to watch throughout the weekend.
ON FIRE: Since coming to Port Huron in late January, F Mike Moroso has seemed to enjoy playing the Ice Breakers. Moroso has piled up 12 goals in only nine appearances, and nine of those have come against Mentor. The 28-year-old has spent each of the last two seasons in the SPHL.
DANVILLE DASHERS NOTES
No matter who the Dashers are playing, it always seems to be a battle. Danville has garnered some positive results in recent weeks, including a 3-2 shootout win over Carolina and a pair of victories over Battle Creek. Led by F Fred Hein (28-22-50), the Dashers possess an elite defense and a formidable group of playmakers on offense.
TOP THREATS: In addition to Hein, F Mitch Atkins (12-21-33), F Jesse Neher (12-16-28) and F Patrik Zilak (16-10-26). F Tyler Quintos (12-12-24) is tied for the team lead in points per game (1.3) while F AJ Tesoriero (11-12-23) and F Nick Gullo (3-19-22) are both having solid seasons.
SEASON SERIES: The Ice Breakers have gone 2-5-0-1 against the Dashers. Danville has won four of the last five matchups, including back-to-back 4-2 wins at Mentor Ice Arena on January 17-18.
STARTING EARLY: The Dashers began this weekend on Thursday night, opening a road series against Elmira with a 5-3 loss. Quintos scored twice in the first period, but the Enforcers stormed back with four unanswered goals. Danville was outshot 50-42 in the losing effort.
LEAGUE-BEST: G Jesse Gordichuk is one of the biggest reasons for Danville’s success. The Penticton, BC product leads all qualified active goaltenders in wins (17), goals-against average (2.88) and save percentage (.923). His backup, G Harley White, has been no slouch, compiling a 3.11/.912 slash line. White needed to make only 23 saves to pick up his lone shutout of the season in a 2-0 win against the Ice Breakers on New Year’s Eve.
AROUND THE FPHL
The race for the Eastern Division title is starting to get interesting. Elmira has won five straight contests, including two over the Ice Breakers, and sit only four points behind frontrunning Danbury entering tonight’s games. Watertown is lurking 12 points behind the Enforcers, but the Wolves have a game in hand on Elmira and seem to be on the rise following the acquisition of F Ryan Marker (36-29-65).
In the Western Division, the playoff field is already set with Battle Creek officially being eliminated last week. From here, it will be interesting to see whether fourth-place Columbus can enter the conversation for a higher seed. Additionally, the race between Port Huron and Danville for home-ice advantage should be fun over the coming weeks.
The Ice Breakers will take on Elmira in a two-game set on the road March 6-7 before hosting Delaware March 8. After that, the team will open a five-game road swing in Delaware on March 13.
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.