Rail Yard Dawgs Drop 3 Straight In Weekend Series

Birmingham left wing Craig Simchuk (#10 in white) disrupts an offensive push by the Rail Yard Dawgs Thursday night as the Bulls dropped Roanoke 4-3.

Ice hockey standings center around accumulation of points.

Two points awarded for a regulation win or two for an overtime or shootout win. The loser in overtime or a shootout gets one. The straight up loser in regulation gets the goose egg. The goal is to keep the total moving higher.

Roanoke came up short in all three games this past weekend, sandwiching losses at the Berglund Center to the last-place Birmingham Bulls on Thursday night and Mississippi River Kings on Saturday night around a 5-2 loss to Huntsville in Alabama on Friday. The result was no points gained by the Rail Yard Dawgs as their struggles continue heading into a tough two-game road trip this weekend starting Friday night with the Evansville Thunderbolts followed by a Saturday night date in Peoria. The Dawgs will finish out 2017 with a road game at Fayetteville on December 29, followed by home games at the Berglund Center on December 30 and 31 against Fayetteville and the Knoxville Ice Bears, respectfully.

Roanoke’s struggles are starting to show up in the standings. The Dawgs hold a 5-11-2 record through 18 games, nearly a third of the way through the SPHL 56-game regular season. All five wins have come in either overtime or a shootout, meaning they have yet to beat a league foe in regulation play this season.

Thursday night Roanoke was looking to pounce on a Birmingham team that has occupied last place in the SPHL after opening the season with 7 losses in 8 games. But, the Bulls had started gaining traction  in the last two weeks, winning four games, and they wasted no time jumping on the Dawgs when Andy Bathgate scored at the 1:44 mark of the first to put the Bulls up 1-0.

Roanoke responded with two straight goals by Colin Murray and Nick Schneider to go up 2-1 before Stephen Phee got the equalizer that sent the teams to the first intermission tied at 2. Birmingham got the only goal of the second frame from Craig Simchuk, and when the Bulls scored an empty netter at 18;33 to go up 4-2, Steve Mele’s power play goal for Roanoke with 8 seconds left was too little, too late.

Friday’s trip to Alabama saw Huntsville lead 3-1 after one period and 5-2 after two, leading to a scoreless third.

Back in Roanoke on Saturday night, Mississippi took control from the outset. The River Kings scored on goals by Ryan Marcuz, Shane Bennett and Vojjtech Zemlicka to dominate 3-0 after the first 20 minutes. After a scoreless second, Roanoke came to life early in the third when John Gustafsson found the net for the Dawg’s first tally, but a River King goal by Devin Martha and a pair from Dillan Fox put Mississippi up 6-1 and the rout was secure. Roanoke’s Nick Schneider scored at the 16:32 mark to make the final 6-2.

Roanoke’s newly acquired goalie, Matt Zenzola, took two of the weekend losses in the pipes. Zenzola, a former Pensacola Ice Flyer minder, was the playoff MVP for the Ice Flyers in 2015-16 when Pensacola swept the SPHL championship by going 7-0. Former Roanoke goalie Ryan de Melo was placed on waivers in the move.

Bill Turner