Weekly Preview 3.5.20
By Jared Tennant
PHOTO: Barry Booher
Mentor Ice Breakers (14-28-0-3, 45 pts., 4th place - Eastern Div.) vs.
Elmira Enforcers (26-13-3-3, 87 pts., 2nd place – Eastern Div.)
Mentor Ice Breakers (14-28-0-3, 45 pts., 4th place - Eastern Div.) vs.
Delaware Thunder (11-30-0-1, 34 pts., 5th place – Eastern Div.)
Armed with a revamped roster following a flurry of trades and signings, the Mentor Ice Breakers look to snap a lengthy losing streak this week with a trio of divisional contests. The Ice Breakers will take on the Elmira Enforcers on Thursday and Friday on the road before playing host to the Delaware Thunder on Sunday afternoon in a contest with playoff implications. Mentor and Delaware are the two clubs vying for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Division, the last playoff spot in the FPHL to be decided.
Sunday’s contest is ADM Night. Kids in the ADM youth hockey organization who wear their jerseys and Junior Ice Breakers Kids Club members will receive free admission with a paid adult. The game marks the first of four consecutive matchups between the Ice Breakers and Thunder.
Thursday, March 5, 7:05 p.m. @ First Arena (Elmira, NY)
Friday, March 6, 7:05 p.m. @ First Arena (Elmira, NY)
Sunday, March 8, 3:00 p.m. @ Mentor Ice Arena (Mentor, OH)
THUR./FRI.: Elmira Enforcers YouTube channel
FPHL STANDINGS: Click here
MENTOR ICE BREAKERS NOTES
The Ice Breakers bring a 14-game losing streak into this week’s action against Eastern Division rivals Elmira and Delaware. However, the current iteration of Mentor’s roster is not the same as the team that was assembled for the majority of the streak. Upgrades have been made in key areas, and the Ice Breakers are looking to turn things around and hold off Delaware as the Thunder vie for a late run at the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Division.
MUSTANG BROS: Two of the most exciting trade acquisitions come from the Carolina Thunderbirds: F Gleb Krivoshapkin and D Ramil Talipov. The two were teammates earlier this season with the Ogden Mustangs (WSHL). Krivoshapkin, 19, logged 53 points (27-36-53) in 32 games and started his FPHL career with three goals and five assists for eight total points in six outings with Carolina. He also has experience playing with the Ukranian national team.
Talipov is a 20-year-old puck-moving defenseman who brings a much-needed scoring punch to Mentor’s blue line. He scored three goals while racking up 40 assists with Ogden, giving him 43 points in 41 games.
BETWEEN THE PIPES: G Jake Mullen joins an Ice Breakers goaltending corps that suddenly has depth. Mullen, G Jordan Brant and G Kent Nusbaum are all more than capable. Mullen has been especially impressive since being traded to the Thunderbirds, logging a pair of shutouts while going 9-2-2 with a 2.51 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.
HOT START: F Brendan Mackenzie has four points (1-3-4) over his first three games as an Ice Breaker. He was impressive in last week’s two-game home series against the Port Huron Prowlers and dished out a pair of assists in his FPHL debut.
MORE NEW GUYS: F Austin Weber and F Jakub Volf will make their Ice Breakers debuts this weekend. Weber was added in a deal with Port Huron, while Volf was acquired via trade from the Battle Creek Rumble Bees.
AND EVEN MORE NEW GUYS: Three players will be signed to PTO contracts this week: D Brett Mackell, F Nikolas Verbosky and F Brett Gummo. Mackell, 26, recently put the finishing touches on a stellar career at Villanova University (ACHA) that saw him post 100 points (30-70-100) over 92 appearances, including a career-high 40 points last year. Verbosky was the second-leading scorer at the University of Toledo, and Gummo is coming off a four-year career at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Read the full release on the signings here.
ON THE MEND: It’s been awhile since Ice Breakers fans have seen local product and leading scorer F Declan Conway (29-23-51) in action. Conway has missed five straight games with an upper body injury. The offense will receive a massive jolt when Conway and F Toni Lampo, who’s arrival has been delayed due to travel-related issues, are in the lineup together.
HEATING UP: F Isaiah Crawford has three points in his last three games and has been scoring at a consistent rate since early February. The former Trine University (ACHA DII/DIII) captain beat one of the league’s top goaltenders, G Jesse Gordichuk, on a penalty shot on the road in Danville last Sunday.
YOUTH MOVEMENT: The Ice Breakers currently have the three youngest players in the league on their roster in F Gleb Krivoshapkin, F/D Billy Rapone and D Ramil Talipov.
KEY STATS: When the Ice Breakers score four goals or more, they’ve won 13 of 15 games. Mentor has hit that figure only once since the calendar flipped to 2020, however. The club has also been successful when holding a lead at the first intermission, posting an 11-3-0-1 mark compared with 0-17-0-1 when trailing at the end of one period.
ELMIRA ENFORCERS NOTES
The Enforcers have been on the rise since mid-January, winning 17 of their last 20 games and 13 of their last 14 heading into tonight’s matchup. Elmira is riding a seven-game winning streak and owes part of its success to the acquisition of F Tyler Gjurich, who paces the FPHL with 80 points (38-42-80) and has 13 goals and 13 assists for 26 points in 13 games with the Enforcers.
Elmira enters this week of play just four points back of the top-seeded Danbury Hat Tricks in the Eastern Division. The Enforcers, who outscored the Ice Breakers 10-2 in a sweep at Mentor Ice Arena on February 21-22, will be hungry to continue their current streak as they seek their first division title.
TOP THREATS: In addition to Gjurich, Elmira boasts a plethora of lethal scorers. F Ahmed Mahfouz, who was not in the lineup during the series between these two teams in Northeast Ohio a few weeks ago, has 75 points (23-52-75) in only 34 games and is the leading scorer in FPHL history with 826 points (279-547-826). His next appearance will mark his 400th in the league.
Rookie F Hudson Michaelis (26-31-57) has been impressive, while F Brandon Tucker (23-18-41) has been a consistent offensive presence throughout the season. Elmira has too many talented scorers to list out, but reigning FPHL Rookie of the Year F Stepan Timofeyev (3-7-10, 5 GP) is back in the fold and as dangerous as ever. He has logged multiple points in four of five games since rejoining Elmira in mid-February and notched his 100th career point with a two-goal, one-assist effort at Mentor Ice Arena on February 22.
SUSPENDED: D JT Walters will not be available during this weekend’s series as he was suspended for four games due to an incident that occurred on February 23 against Delaware. Walters will return to Elmira’s lineup next Thursday night when the club battles the Watertown Wolves on home ice.
HOME COOKING: The Enforcers are three games into a 10-game homestand. Elmira has yet to lose during the current stretch, logging a pair of wins over Danville and an overtime victory against Delaware. The Enforcers enjoy one of the best home-ice advantages in the FPHL as they lead the circuit with an average attendance of 3,010 fans per night.
DYNAMIC DUO: Ice Breakers fans became familiar with G Joe Young when the Enforcers traveled to Northeast Ohio. Young posted his first career shutout and stopped 52 of 54 shots over the weekend. The Massachusetts native has been remarkably consistent during his first professional season, compiling a 2.41 goals-against average and .932 save percentage in addition to a 10-1-0 record.
G Troy Passingham is a veteran workhorse with extensive SPHL experience who played three years of major junior hockey in the OHL. Passingham is one of the bigger netminders in the FPHL at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds and has accounted for 17 of Elmira’s 26 wins. The Enforcers also have on their roster G Austin Washkurak, who is coming off a four-year career at SUNY-Canton (NCAA DIII).
DELAWARE THUNDER NOTES
Despite their record, the Delaware Thunder seem to compete with every team in the FPHL. The Ice Breakers and Thunder will open a key stretch of four games in a row against one another on Sunday afternoon in Mentor. The series will continue the following weekend with a trio of contests at the Thunderdome in Delaware.
The Thunder trail the Ice Breakers by 11 points for the fourth seed in the East Division. Delaware recently snapped a 14-game losing streak with a statement 13-2 victory over Battle Creek that saw F Anton Kalinin net a staggering six goals.
The Thunder swept the Rumble Bees with three convincing wins last week and play the Bees four more times this season, meaning significantly more points are likely coming for Delaware. The Ice Breakers will need to win some games down the stretch if they hope to hold off the late charge from the Thunder.
LEADING THE WAY: Delaware acquired former Ice Breaker F Parker Moskal at the trade deadline, and he immediately becomes the Thunder’s top scorer with 63 points (20-43-63) over only 25 games. Kalinin has 40 points (23-17-40) while FEvgenii Demin (9-31-40), F Thomas Munichello (11-16-27) and F Kristers Bormanis (4-18-22) round out Delaware’s top five scorers.
WORKHORSE: It wouldn’t be a surprise to see FPHL veteran G Aaron Taylor between the pipes on Sunday. The Gormley, Ontario, product is only 23 years old and has three years under his belt with Danville and Delaware. Taylor stole a game from the Ice Breakers back in November, making 51 saves in a 3-2 Thunder win that saw Mentor outshoot the visitors by a 53-27 margin.
BIG SIGNING: F Darius Davidson joined the Thunder after playing 25 games in the SPHL as a rookie. Davidson has seven goals and a pair of assists in only three games with his new club, including a six-point (4-2-6) performance in his debut.
AROUND THE FPHL
It was a fairly active FPHL trade deadline. The Ice Breakers made more moves than any other team, adding G Jake Mullen, F Gleb Krivoshapkin, F Jakub Volf and F Austin Weber on deadline day. Carolina lost the top goaltender on its current roster in Mullen in the trade with the Ice Breakers, but it now has the rights to both G Henry Dill and G Austyn Roudebush and likely secured itself a number one goaltender throughout the postseason.
Former Ice Breaker D Dzmitry Daniliuk now finds himself in Danville, while Port Huron added F Steven Fowler and F Sam Williams, a pair of impactful forwards. Delaware’s swap of D Daniel DiCristofaro for F Parker Moskal could pay dividends in the coming weeks as the Thunder make a late push for a playoff spot in their inaugural season.
The Ice Breakers will open a five-game road swing next weekend with a three-in-three series against Delaware on March 13-15. After that, the club will make their only road trip to Danbury on March 20-21 to take on the first-place Hat Tricks.
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.