Marcus Ortiz faces off against Austin Daae

Dawgs add Ortiz to Roster, Send Wolter to Macon

By Jesse Gilbert

In a shocking revelation Tuesday afternoon the Rail Yard Dawgs announced they had traded forward Colton Wolter to the Macon Mayhem in exchange for Marcus Ortiz. The fan reaction has been mixed so far as Wolter is Roanoke’s leading goal scorer this year, posting 11 goals in 29 games. Wolter has also put up 8 assists for a total of 19 points, and had plus/minus of 0.

Marcus Ortiz is not really something to shy away at though. Ortiz himself also has 11 goals scored this season. He has a total of 15 points, with 4 assists in addition to his 11 goals. The most notable downside to him is that he is a minus 15 as opposed to Wolter’s even 0 plus/minus. However, one could give that a pass as plus/minus is a hotly debated topic on whether or not it truly reflects on a players talent. The 5’11” forward also adds some extra grit to the team, which could come in handy.

One stat that could potentially be being overlooked is shot totals. Roanoke has struggled tremendously this season with getting shots to the net and have been out-shot in several of their tilts. Marcus Ortiz has 117 shots on goal by himself. Roanoke’s highest shot total leader is Jeff Jones, with 76 shots on target, 41 shots less than Ortiz has. Wolter has 69 shots on goal so far this season.

Overall, losing Wolter seems like a minus at first, but Ortiz is a solid player who could end up surprising some people. Ortiz will get his first start in a Dawgs jersey this Friday as the team heads to Huntsville, Alabama for a date with the reigning champs. Puck drop is at 8:00PM!

Roanoke Looks to Bounce Back after Shutout

By Jesse Gilbert

The Rail Yard Dawgs were shutout in Birmingham 4-0 on Saturday. The loss comes following a 5-4 win against the Bulls the night before. Not getting a single tally against the Bulls on Saturday hurt, but the Dawgs holding on for the win at home on double dare night was very important as the playoff race begins to heat up.

The boys are looking to bounce back with three games on the menu for this weekend, including the first Sunday game of the season. They’ll kick the weekend off on the road against Knoxville. Roanoke is 2-3 against the Ice Bears so far this season. They’ll head back home from Tennessee for two home games against the Macon Mayhem on Saturday and Sunday. The Mayhem have not won a single game on the road so far, and the Dawgs plan to keep it that way. 

Every game this weekend is critical for the playoff picture. Three teams (Roanoke, Birmingham, and Macon) are tied for the eighth and final playoff spot. While the Quad City Storm are only two points ahead and sitting in seventh place. The Dawgs have picked up the pace in comparison to the rough start they had this season and are 4-4-2 in their last ten games. Staying out of the box is going to be crucial for success this weekend. Roanoke has the second worst penalty kill in the league killing off only 79.21% of penalties the team takes. If they can avoid taking bad penalties, the Dawgs should be in good shape to secure some points this weekend.

Thanksgiving Weekend Recap

By Jesse Gilbert

The Rail Yard Dawgs had an eventful Thanksgiving weekend playing three games in three nights including once on Thanksgiving itself. They traveled well this weekend starting off with a turkey day showdown on the road in Fayetteville. The Marksmen continued their unrelenting dominance over the Dawgs defeating Roanoke 6-1. Roanoke’s losing streak extended to nine games following the loss to the Marksmen.  The lone goal was scored in the second period by Colton Wolter, his fifth of the year. The special teams struggled Thursday with Roanoke going zero for three on the power play, while Fayetteville capitalized on three of their seven extra man advantage opportunities. The newly acquired goaltender Ian Sylves would come in for the last six minutes of the game, his first time on the ice as a Rail Yard Dawg.

Following the loss the Rail Yard Dawgs travelled to Knoxville, Tennessee for a date with the Ice Bears. The team was firing on all cylinders getting their first regulation win of the season with a final tally of 7-4. Mac Jansen got the scoring started breaking the 0-0 score with a power play goal. Brad Riccardi and Colton Wolter added tallies for the Dawgs, Wolter scoring his team leading sixth goal of the season. Jeff Jones scored twice in Friday night’s tilt, scoring the eventual game winner shorthanded! Newly acquired forward Bobby Watson scored his first goal of the season in his first game for Roanoke. CJ Stubbs buried the empty netter, while net minder Ian Sylves got his first start and first win as a Rail Yard Dawg making 27 saves on 31 shots (87.1%). Notably, Shayne Morrissey was not in the lineup against Knoxville.

The Dawgs headed home to the Star City for their third game in a row, this time against the Birmingham Bulls, who knocked them out of the play-offs in the semi-finals last season. Ian Sylves once again got the start in net making 26 save on 29 shots (89.66%). Roanoke looked good on home ice, maintaining possession of the puck in the offensive zone better than they have most of the season. The game was very close all night long with only one goal (Jacob Barber – Birmingham) being scored in the first two periods of play. The pucks found the back of the net four times in the third, with Matt Fuller extending Birmingham’s lead only one minute and thirty-eight seconds into the period. Roanoke’s Mac Jansen got on the board only a few minutes later cutting the lead in half. Newly acquired Dawg Kyle Gonzalez scored his first SPHL goal tying the game shortly after the halfway mark, but Matt Fuller would score his second of the night which would wind up being the game winner. There was no update on Shayne Morrissey, who was also not in the lineup against the Bulls. Morrissey has not been placed on I.R. by the team.

On Monday the team announced that they have extended Bobby Watson’s contract by three more games and placed defenseman Vojtech Zemlicka on waivers. Zemlicka has appeared in 7 games for the Rail Yard Dawgs this season putting up 3 points (1G, 2A) and a plus/minus of -5. Zemlicka came to Roanoke last season and appeared in 33 games for the Dawgs.

The Dawgs are back in action this Saturday, December 7th at 7:05PM for a rematch with the Knoxville Ice Bears!

Dawgs Trade Bakker for Sherwood

By Jesse Gilbert

At noon on Monday the Rail Yard Dawgs announced they had traded the rights of Cam Bakker to the Pensacola Ice Flyers in return for the rights to Brant Sherwood.

Cam Bakker played two partial seasons with Roanoke, playing 26 games with Roanoke in 17-18 after starting his professional career in the Federal Hockey League with the defunct Cornwall Nationals. In the 2018-19 season Cam was called up to the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL where he spent the majority of the regular season. He was sent back down to Roanoke and played 10 regular season games for the Dawgs and was crucial to their play-off success with 6 assists and 1 goal during the 5 game, 2 round run.

The 2019-20 season marks Brant Sherwood’s fifth year as a professional hockey player. His SPHL career started with the (now folded) Mississippi RiverKings. After the team folded he was moved to the Pensacola Ice Flyers for the 2018-19 season. He put up 14 points (5G, 9A) for Pensacola and had a brief stint here in Virginia when he was called up to the ECHL’s Norfolk Admirals. Sherwood is a gritty forward but is still capable of generating plenty of offense.

There has been no word on whether or not Sherwood will be joining the Dawgs for training camp in the coming weeks, but his SPHL rights now belong to the team for the season.

SPHL Announces 2019-20 Rule Changes

By: Jesse Gilbert/ Contributor

The SPHL has revealed several new rule changes for the 2019-20 hockey season following their annual Board of Governors meeting this week. The majority of the rule changes are to the playoffs, specifically to the format of how playoff opponents are selected.

Last season the Rail Yard Dawgs finished 5th overall in the regular season, putting them at risk of being selected by the top seeded Peoria in the challenge round. As we all know Peoria selected Roanoke over 8th seeded Fayetteville likely due to travel distance and the regular season matchups going in the Rivermen’s favor.

A 1 seed versus 5 seed round 1 matchup will not be happening again this year as the SPHL has decided to replace the challenge round in favor of a more traditional playoff seeding structure. The top 4 seeds will no longer be selecting their round 1 matchups from the pool of bottom 4 seeds. Seed 1 will play seed 8, seed 2 will play seed 7, seed 3 will play seed 6, and seed 4 will play seed 5. Additionally, after round 1, the SPHL will re-seed the first round winners again according to the regular season results. All playoff matchups will continue to be a best-of-three series.

Teams will additionally be able to carry a 20th player on their roster going into the playoffs but only if the 20th player is an amateur player signed to an amateur try-out contract within the last 2 weeks of the regular season.

The last change announced is that all teams will no longer have to scratch a roster spot when a player is suspended. They will be able to field the full 19 spot roster no matter the suspensions.

Game 1 Recap and Looking Toward Game 2

By: Jesse Gilbert/ Contributor

The Dawgs fell after a back and forth battle in game one Thursday night at the Berglund Center against their second round opponent the Birmingham Bulls. The Dawgs did not manage to hold the lead once in Thursday night’s tilt but they did keep pace with the Bulls. Both teams netted a goal on the powerplay after neither of them having much PP success in their 7 regular season matchups. Of course, it does help when you are given so many powerplay chances.

Fan favorite Adrian Carbonara drew the ire of the Bulls early and found himself in the penalty box for roughing a Bulls player from the bench in the first period. He was able to tie the game with an outstanding team effort off a quick series of passes from Jansen and Wolter.  Mac Jansen continued his trend as the Bull killer scoring with only 3.8 seconds left in the second period. Jansen had a spectacular game netting himself 3 points (1G, 2A). Colin Murray found his stride once again scoring after Travis Armstrong’s slapshot rang off the post and landed in the crease. Murray’s goal would be the Dawgs only powerplay goal out of 8 power play attempts.

The Bulls were able to take advantage of some lucky bounces and defensive lapses. The Bulls aggressive forecheck had the Dawgs struggling on their breakout of their own zone. Shane Topf set the tone early on with a one-time shot from the slot after a no look feed from Craig Simchuk. Garret Schmitz scored the Bulls only powerplay goal out of 6 powerplay attempts. Mike Davis scored on an unlucky bounce off of Travis Armstrong’s skate which put the puck in prime shooting position for Davis and left Caffery out of position. Despite the Dawgs tying it late in the second Mike Crocock scored 1:12 into the third period going five-hole on Jacob Caffrey. Crocock’s goal would be the game winning goal.

The Dawgs outshot the Bulls 30-19, with 15 of Roanoke’s shots coming in the third period. Despite this Mavric Park’s played a great game and kept the Bulls in it to seal the deal for the game one win. As if going into the series down 1-0 with both remaining games being played in Birmingham wasn’t bad enough, the Dawgs will have to do it without one of their better goal scorers, Maxime Guyon. Guyon was determined to tie the game late in the third putting up a total of 6 shots in the game. Despite this Maxime’s frustration got the better of him and he has been suspended for games two and three for crosschecking a Bull in the face.

Game two is in Birmingham at the Pelham Civic Center Friday night at 8:30 eastern time. Let’s go Dawgs!!

Playoff Preview: Roanoke vs. Birmingham

by Jesse Gilbert/ Contributor

This past weekend Roanoke won its very first play-off series as a franchise. After an impressive 2-0 sweep against the top seeded Peoria Rivermen, the Dawgs find themselves pitted against the second seed Birmingham Bulls. Birmingham advanced to the Presidents Cup semi-finals by defeating the Fayetteville Marksmen in three games. Despite being shutout 4-0 by the Marksmen in game 1, the Bulls rallied at home winning game two 3-2 and game three 5-0.

The Dawgs and the Bulls met 7 times this regular season with Roanoke finishing the matchup with a 3-2-2 record. Mac Jansen has 8 points (4G, 4A) throughout those seven games and has Roanoke’s highest point totals followed by Steve Mele (2G, 5A). The Dawgs have given up 92 PIMs against the Bulls but Birmingham has not had very much success getting the best of the Dawgs penalty killing unit scoring only 3 times out of 30 powerplays (10%). The Dawgs have found a bit more success on the PP during the regular season against the Bulls scoring 4 times on 29 powerplays (13.8%).

The Bulls will likely continue to rely on the efforts of Mavric Parks in net against Roanoke. Parks boasts a 0.934 save% in his three games against Fayetteville. Parks made 85 saves on 91 shots in the three game series against Fayetteville. Mavric has remained consistent throughout the regular season with 0.933 save% and a 2.28 GAA and led the team to 30 wins.

The Dawgs will continue to trust Jacob Caffrey between the pipes going into the semi-finals. Caffrey finished the regular season with a 0.903 save% and a 2.97 GAA. Caffrey finished the regular season with 13 wins. While Caffrey’s regular season stats are not quite as significant as Parks’, Caffrey played a very big role in Roanoke’s victory against Peoria. Caffrey made a huge save in game one where he punched a floating puck over top of the crossbar to keep Roanoke alive.

If Roanoke is able to play as consistently as they have against Birmingham during the regular season, we are in for a very exciting matchup. Game one of the semi-finals will be played at the Berglund Center Thursday night at 7:05. Let’s go Dawgs!