Twenty-two regular season games remain on the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs schedule.
At 12-17-5 to date, the Dawgs find themselves bunched in a group of four teams battling for the final two playoff spots in the Southern Professional Hockey League 8-team playoff format.
It will be a make or break situation for Roanoke between this weekend and mid-March, when the Dawgs return to the Berglund Center for their final seven regular season games, all on the home pond.
The fifteen games before that final home stretch will be no bargain.
Things begin this weekend when Roanoke plays Friday, February 7th against the Knoxville Ice Bears and the following night against the last-place Macon Mayhem, both at home.
Following that home stand, the Dawgs play ten of their next thirteen games on the road, including multi-game trips to Knoxville and Huntsville, Alabama for three games in three nights, a pair in Fayetteville, three in three nights during a midwest swing through Quad City, Iowa and Peoria, Illinois, before logging two more in Birmingham, Alabama. Making things even more challenging will be the only three home games during that one month stretch will be three straight on successive nights, February 20, 21 and 22, against the first-place juggernaut Peoria Rivermen.
Adding to that three-game shootout on the Berglund ice against Peoria will be the revenge factor after first-place Peoria was eliminated by Roanoke in a stunning 2-0 sweep in the Challenge Round of the SPHL President’s Cup playoffs last April.
Roanoke had a mini-win streak stopped Saturday night at home after posting three consecutive wins over the previous six days, including a pair of wins against Pensacola and topping Huntsville on the Havoc’s ice in Alabama. Pensacola rebounded in the two team’s regular season series finale Saturday when the Ice Flyers broke a 1-1 tie with a goal late in the third period and added an empty-netter with 1:07 left to secure the 3-1 win.
The 3-game win streak was Roanoke’s second of the season for that duration.
Injuries, call-ups and inconsistency on the power play have bitten the Dawgs throughout the current campaign.Things got worse when Dawgs Chris Lijdsman and Lincoln Griffin were called up to ECHL teams late last week, while Josh Nenadal missed Thursday’s game with an injury, Brad Riccardi missed Friday and Saturday, and Mac Jansen departed Saturday night in the opening period with an injury.
Looking for able bodies, Dawgs head coach Dan Bremner drew former Dawg Colin Murray out of retirement for Saturday’s game. Murray appeared in 108 games for Roanoke across three seasons from 2016-19 and is fourth all-time in games played as a Rail Yard Dawg, second in goals (43) and tied for second in points (76). Murray’s stay was set for one night only.
Roanoke also signed defenseman Tyler Davis to a three-game tryout contract.
Roanoke will be looking for goalies Henry Dill and Austyn Roudebush to rise to the occasion during the final push. Dill is 6-3-1 in ten games in the pipes and newcomer Roudebush is 1-0-1. Roudebush joined the Dawgs in mid-January after playing in the FPHL to start the season with the Mentor Ice Breakers, where he posted a 2.73 goals against average and .927 save percentage. Roudebush spent the 2018-19 season in Sweden. Friday night he quickly became a fan-favorite in Roanoke after shutting out Pensacola 1-0 for his first SPHL shutout, making 29 saves in the process.