Rail Yard Dawgs Get Traction in SPHL Standings

Nick Schneider and David Gandara celebrate a Rail Yard Dawgs’ win at the Berglund Center.

The Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs hope that the New Year offers better results for the Southern Professional Hockey League team than the disappointing start of the 2017 campaign, and things have already taken a turn for the better.

A new coach and a new approach have rightened the ship. Now, the Dawgs will look for calmer waters heading into the key run throughout the remainder of January and February.

New Roanoke head coach Dan Bremner, who took over after the firing of Sam Ftorek on December 18th, has responded to being thrown into the fire with admirable results.

After gaining only one point from road trips to Evansville and Peoria in his first weekend of action, Bremner nearly pulled out the trifecta in Roanoke’s last three games before the New Year. The Dawgs got things started on December 29th by winning their first game of the year in regulation, a convincing 7-3 thumping of the Fayetteville Marksmen, on the road no less. Roanoke rebounded from an early 1-0 deficit to score four straight goals and never looked back on their way to setting a new season-high in goals. The win was also goalie Matt Zenzola’s first as a Rail Yard Dawg.

One night later, the same two teams squared off on the Berglund Center pond, resulting in the second Roanoke win in regulation in as many nights, a 4-2 come-from-behind win. The Dawgs scored three times in the third period to give goalie Brad Berone the win in the pipes.

Looking for three in a row, Roanoke came up short on New Year’s Eve on home ice, falling 4-1 to the Knoxville Ice Bears. Knoxville goalie Troy Davenport was the deciding factor, stopping 30 of 31 shots in the Ice Bear win, despite Roanoke holding a 31-20 advantage in shots on goal.

Last weekend, Roanoke again opened a three-game weekend series on the road Thursday night. The Macon Mayhem scored twice in the first period and defense took over as Macon held on for the 3-1 win, including a empty-netter in the final minute.

The Dawgs returned home Friday night for the first of two straight on the Berglund ice against the SPHL front-running Pensacola Ice Flyers. Things looked bleak when Pensacola raced out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first period, but Bremner replaced starting goalie Zenzola with Barone midway through the first, and it lit a fire under the Dawgs, who eventually came from behind 3 times to force overtime before winning in a shootout 5-4. Pensacola pelted Barone with 10 shots in the first 5-minute overtime to no avail, then was stoned in the shootout that saw John Gustafsson and Steve Mele find the twine for the Roanoke win.

Hoping to send the Ice Flyers back to sunny Florida with a totally cloudy result, Roanoke came up just short Saturday night as the Dawgs fell 4-3. Roanoke fell behind 4-0 in the second period before Mele scored twice on shorthanded tallies, and Matt Beer made things interesting with a goal in the third to cut the Ice Flyer lead to one. But, despite pulling Barone for an extra skater in the last 90 seconds, Pensacola was up to the task in holding on for the win.

Roanoke returns to action this Friday when Fayetteville visits the Berglund Center for the 7:05 face-off. The two teams have a rematch Saturday night in Fayetteville. Roanoke’s only two remaining January home dates fall on Friday, January 19th, again against Fayetteville, and Saturday, January 27th when the Birmingham Bulls stampede into the Berglund Center.

Bill Turner