Christmas is just two days away, and no matter how old you are, there are still things you wish to get on Christmas morning. Maybe that’s just seeing family, new clothes, or the hottest new gadget.
Well, we at Bus League Hockey reached out to our sources at the North Pole, who were able to pass along this year’s big wish that every team in the FPHL and SPHL asked for this holiday season. Some seem like they’re asking for the word, while others aren’t asking for much, because even the smallest thing would make a huge difference this season.
Without further ado, here is what each team wished for, first presenting the FPHL. Teams are presented in order of the standings.
A challenge from the rest of the Fed
This team is 17-1-0-1 (W-L-OTW-OTL), and is just dominating night in, night out. It would be nice to see a team or two step up and challenge them, not just so Carolina doesn’t get complacent, but so the fans in Winston-Salem get a chance to watch more close games.
Danbury Hat Tricks
A Better Penalty Kill
Danbury has won 11 games in a row, a new Danbury professional hockey record, but outside of Battle Creek, they have the worst penalty kill in the league at just 75%. If they could get that sorted out, they might be REALLY dangerous the rest of the way and could play for a championship.
Port Huron Prowlers
More Scoring Help from the Defense
The Prowlers are playing good hockey heading into the Holiday, winning six in a row, but have scored just the 7th most goals in the league so far, and are somehow in third-place overall. If they can get another big-scorer or two on defense, where only two full-time defenseman have more than five points, that would go a long ways towards giving them a shot to possibly knock-off Carolina in the playoffs.
More Goaltending Depth
Jeremy Pominville has appeared in 16 games for the Wolves, posting solid numbers (3.07 GAA, .919 Sv%) but the backup situation has been a mess. Stephen Havery has appeared in four games and has been lit up to the tune of a 7.64 GAA and .844 Sv% in just 40 minutes of action. The Wolves could use a steady backup in case Pominville gets hurt or called up.
A Little Bit of Discipline
The Enforcers have lived up to their name this season, racking up 438 penalty minutes in 19 games, good for just over 23 minutes a night. If the team could find a way to stay out of the box, it would really help them play more consistent hockey. That said, they’ve found their stride of late and are up to third in the jam-packed FPHL East.
Mentor Ice Breakers
More Forward Depth
The Breakers play a really fun brand of hockey and its led to Jon Buttitta and Declan Conway putting up huge numbers, with 38 and 37 points. But there is a sharp drop after that, with the next highest-scoring forwards posting 14 points, then one with 10. And that’s it for double-digit scoring forwards. Another solid forward or two would really help them in the chase for home ice in the East playoffs.
This is the one team we can’t figure out, one game they look like one of the top three or so teams in the league, then the next they’ll get pasted by the same team they just beat before. They score a ton and give up a ton of goals, but if they could figure out a way to put their best game on the ice more often, it would be the difference between home ice, or potentially even falling to the No. 4 seed in the West.
Columbus River Dragons
Better Team Chemistry
The challenge of any expansion team is putting it all together, and of the four teams this year, only Danbury has done that. If you look at the Columbus roster it SHOULD be better than 6-10-1-1. But they’ve lacked flow on offense at times, the defense gives up too many big chances, and the goalies have been hit or miss. The team needs to find an identity, and two trades last week hopefully helps them find it before it’s too late.
Get Better on the Back End
The Thunder seem thisclose to being a really tough team, but their combo of not enough defensive depth and iffy goaltending has limited them to just four wins, despite the average game being about 5-3. They’ve made a couple trades of late to try and address it, but this really does feel like a team that’s just one or two more solid pieces either on defense, or in net, away from being a real contender. Unfortunately, contending may have to wait until next year due to them being in the East.
Battle Creek Rumble Bees
That’s it. The team came SO CLOSE Friday night to knocking off Elmira, at one point leading 5-1 with about 22 minutes to go before they ran out of gas and gave up five goals the rest of the way. A win would lift this team’s spirits so much, and really help their confidence going forward. They’re getting better, slowly, so hopefully we see a win soon. Maybe even this weekend?
They have nothing else to prove in the regular season, and they currently sit atop the SPHL with the best goal differential in the league. They’ve done everything you can in the SPHL except bring home the President’s Cup. Really, it’s championship or bust for the Rivermen this year.
Knoxville Ice Bears
Stop the Goaltending Merry Go-Round
Really, this is kind of an SPHL problem, but the Ice Bears have been hit hard at the goalie spot, with the back-up entering the year going on IR and never playing a game. Then Joseph Murdaca stepped in and played brilliant in 10 games…and promptly got a well-deserved up to the ECHL. Their two current goalies are sporting a combined GAA of about 4.00 and a sub-.900 GAA. It hasn’t hurt yet because they’re the highest scoring team in the league, but getting the goaltending settled could make them title favorites.
Pensacola Ice Flyers
Any Sort of Life on the Power Play
I’m not sure how this is possible for a team in third-place, but the Ice Flyers are scoring on just 9.5% of their power play chances, the worst in the league and more than seven percent below the league average. They have just six power play goals so far. If they were even average on the power play the offense would look a lot better. Oh, and they also have the fewest power play chances in the league so far at 63. They have to find way to make special teams special again.
ECHL Teams To Stop Taking Players
The Marksmen got off to a white-hot start and were neck and neck with the Rivermen and Ice Bears two weeks ago. Since then they’ve slipped a bit, dropping four in a row, but going to overtime in three of them. They’ve lost nine players to the ECHL so far, most coming in the past three weeks or so, including one of the SPHL’s leading goalies at the time, Danny Tirone. If they can get a couple of those guys back, it would really solidify the lineup and be a big boost in the playoff race.
More Goal Scorers
Part of it has been a little bit of bad luck, with one of the lowest shooting percentages in the league (8.1%), but the team could really use a star up front. They have just one player with double-digit goals on the team, and just four players on the active roster with more than five, and that’s if you count John Schiavo’s three with Quad City. It’s a balanced effort, and that has them in fifth place, but if they’re going to three-peat come the spring, they need a more dynamic offense.
The Fans to Start Showing Up
The Bolts have shaken off last season’s dismal results and might be the most exciting team in the league, recently having a 7-game winning streak and sitting in striking distance of home-ice advantage in the first round. Unfortunately, even with that hot play the fans haven’t come out to see the team. A look at the SPHL attendance shows they’re at 2,273 a night good for 7th in the league. But that number is badly boosted by a School Day game that brought in over 7,000. Throw that game out and the team is at around 1,800 a night, including a recent game with just 911 as the listed attendance. Come on Evansville, you have a fun team playing great hockey, get out there and see them.
A Better Schedule
The Mayhem have started to figure it out of late, and rallied to climb to 7th in the standings heading into Christmas. Unfortunately, they won’t get to see much of that new success on home ice the rest of the way. Somehow, the SPHL had they play SIXTEEN, yes, 1-6, 16, home game before Christmas, to just four away games. The rest of the season will see just 12 games in Macon and 24 on the road. That’s brutal and should make it really tough to stay in a playoff spot, especially when you consider that the Mayhem have yet to get a point in those four road games.
Quad City Storm
A Way to Beat The Rest of the League
Here’s a wild stat: In six games against Peoria the Storm have earned 41.6% of the points available, not awful considering how good the Rivermen have been. Against the rest of the league: 39.3%. You’re never going to have a ton of wins and points against Peoria, so you REALLY have to make hay against the other nine teams in the league when you get the chance, especially when you still have eight more games against the Rivermen on the schedule.
Just a Little Bit of Puck Luck
The Bulls are last in the league in shooting percentage at 7.7% percent on the season. So far this year the average SPHL team is shooting 9.72%, so to be two percent below average doesn’t sound like a lot, but if the Bulls were even shooting that league average, they would have about 66 goals this year, basically an extra goal per game. That extra goal could mean up to as much as five extra points in the standings so far, the difference between their current ninth-place spot, and jumping up to seventh and four points clear of a playoff spot. This is a team to keep an eye on going forward, because you feel like that 7.7% number has to go up.
Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs
Shots Shots Shots Shots
No, not the alcohol kind to forget how the season has started. The Rail Yard Dawgs are the worst in the SPHL at shots on goal by a mile, just 25.57 per game, about four worse than the ninth-worst team in the league, and about six shots per game below the league average. Add in that they’re giving up 35.58 shots per game and the average game sees them out-shot by 10 a night. That’s a lot of extra chances for your opponent. In our opinion, it starts with getting more chances on offense, and that in turn will help limit opposing shots.
So there is what each team wished for this Christmas! Merry Christmas to everyone and every team, and we’ll see you when the games pick back up on Thursday!