Rail Yard Dawgs Eye Playoff Spot Heading Into Home Stretch

The Rail Yard Dawgs have put pressure on opposing goaltenders, resulting in a recent 9-game winning streak that has Roanoke firmly in the playoff mix.

The Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs ice hockey team is poised to take a spot in the Southern Professional Hockey League’s 8-team playoffs that begin in early-April.

The Dawgs still have a lot of growling to do.

Thanks to a 10-game span that saw the Dawgs win nine and force overtime in the other, Roanoke has jumped into a tie for seventh place in the 10-team league, and along with the Mississippi River Kings, only trail 6th place Evansville by three points. Right behind Mississippi and Roanoke, the Birmingham Bulls are charging from three points back.

Roanoke’s ten-game point streak was finally halted last Saturday night in Pensacola, Florida when the Ice Flyers came back from an early 2-0 deficit to score the game’s final five goals on their way to the 5-2 win. It was the first loss in regulation for the Dawgs since a 3-2 loss to Knoxville at the Berglund Center on February 2nd.

Roanoke has 12 games left in the regular season, 5 at home and 7 on the road, beginning this weekend with back-to-back road games at Macon and Knoxville. The Dawgs return to the Berglund Center for home games on Thursday, March 15 and Friday March 16 against Macon, then board the bus for the long trip to Birmingham for a road tilt on that Saturday night in Alabama.

The Dawgs travel to Huntsville on Friday, March 23 before returning home the next night to take on the Knoxville Ice Bears. After a road trip to Fayetteville on Thursday, March 29, Roanoke will close the regular season with four games against the first place Peoria Rivermen, beginning with two straight at the Berglund Center on Friday and Saturday March 30-31, followed by two straight the following weekend in Peoria.

Roanoke center Steve Mele leads the Dawgs in scoring with 49 points, on 18 goals and 31 assists.

The four-game, season-ending matchup with Peoria could well play out as the determining factor in Roanoke’s playoff quest. Peoria has jumped out to take over first place with a 5-point margin over Pensacola. The Rivermen have already clinched a playoff berth. Due to the scheduling quirk, the only previous meeting between the Dawgs and Rivermen this season occurred back in December when Peoria scored the first three goals of the game and cruised to the 6-1 win at the Peoria Civic Center. The high-powered Rivermen offense outshot Roanoke 49-34.

In other Rail Yard Dawgs news, President Bob McGinn noted that a specialty military jersey worn by Eric Witzel brought more than $2,000 at auction, with a portion of the proceeds donated to local military support centers. Also, since the arrival of coach Dan Bremner, and the dramatic 9-game winning streak, McGinn said attendance numbers are up on average a few hundred per game versus last year, and season ticket sales for next year are tracking higher.

Additionally, McGinn announced good news for local youth hockey players and skaters.

“We have joined a great group of local families that have formed a group called Penalty Box Partners,” McGinn said. “This group has purchased the Lancerlot in Vinton and has set the plan in motion to have a second sheet of ice down and functional in that building by the fall. It’s important to note that this endeavor is 100% privately owned and operated, no taxpayer money is needed. And, once the facility is renovated and the ice construction is complete, our community will be able to support more hockey players and figure skaters as well as hold public skates and host tournaments to help our local patrons.”

Bill Turner

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