With less than two months to play in the regular season the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs are trying to hold on to the last playoff spot – or move up – in the Southern Professional Hockey League standings. The Dawgs have been more consistent under head coach Dan Bremner, who replaced the fired Sam Ftorek in December. Bremner came in wanting to work on the team’s overall conditioning, hoping it would keep the team from fading so often in the third period, as seemed to be the case under Ftorek – the team’s original head coach when they debuted at the Berglund Center in 2016-2017.
Forward Daniel Vernace, back for second tour with the Dawgs this season, says the different way Ftorek and Bremner (who is just 31 years old) entered the coaching ranks shows up in their approach to the game. “Sam was more of an established player and a savvy veteran per se … Dan is a lot more high tempo – that’s how he was able to be successful as a pro player. He’s a very hardnosed guy and demands a lot of his players. We’re excited to have him here.”
Meanwhile forward Steve Mele, in his second season with the Rail Yard Dawgs as well (and a top scorer in the league this season after missing much of the previous campaign with a bad wrist) says “[Ftorek] had a lot of bad things said about him. It’s sad to see. I played with Sam for a long time and was a friend. He was an unbelievable coach; it’s just a different style [with Bremner].”
The Bronx-born Mele says Bremner’s “intense personality” is translating to the Dawgs, who have been more competitive in many games since he took over in mid-December. “If you get too laid back a lot of players tend to get too comfortable. Bremner’s not about that; he’s the more go-go-go style.” Dawgs fans are hoping that translates into go-go-going to the playoffs late next month.