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Ice Flyers' Home Opener Friday

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Pensacola Ice Flyers
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  The Pensacola Ice Flyers’ home opener is set for Friday evening at the Pensacola Bay Center – aka “The Hangar.”

The Ice Flyers dropped the puck on their seventh season last Friday at Peoria, winning 3-1, then losing to the Rivermen 4-0 on Saturday.

“We played very well; the second game we obviously didn’t get the results but the mistakes we made were on us. Those are things that are fixable,” said Head Coach Rod Aldoff, who’s back for a third season behind the bench.

Aldoff led the Ice Flyers to the President’s Cup – the championship of the Southern Professional Hockey League – in 2014, but the team went out in the first round of the playoffs last spring. The two games last weekend in Peoria, he says, gave him a clearer picture of this year’s squad.  

“Players, especially the younger guys you can see where they’re at as far as competing at the professional level and building from there,” Aldoff said.

Fast forward to Friday evening, and the matchup with Pensacola’s closest rival, the Louisiana Ice Gators.

“In my two years [at Pensacola] I don’t think we’ve ever had a bad game with them,” said Aldoff. “It’s always a pretty intense game, a competitive game, back and forth. I look to it as nothing but another good game between two good teams.”

“I’m obviously honored to wear the ‘C,’ but I don’t think it changes much. I think we’ve got 18 leaders in that locker room,” said team captain Adam Pawlick, the leading scorer in the SPHL last season with 66 points on 32 goals and 34 assists.

He says having a number of veterans on the team helps, when it comes to helping along the younger players – those just out of college, where about 30 games are played per season – to the marathon that is pro hockey.

“You’ve got those midweek games, and 2-3 games on the weekend; it’s a little bit more of a juggled schedule than in college,” Pawlick said. “Any questions they have about travel, eating, or anything like that I just try to give them the best advice I can.

One of the mainstays of last year’s team – goalie Max Strang – has retired and gone into private business. His successor is Matt Zenzola, who faces his former Ice Gator teammates this evening. He says for goalies, moving up and down between the SPHL and upper level leagues is tougher than for the forwards and defensemen.

“You play a different role when you go up,” says Zenzola, who spent time with the Ontario Reign of the ECHL last season. “You become a backup, or you’re not playing a lot of games. So your timing and everything changes. When you’re playing in one spot and staying in game form, it’s easier to keep and maintain that over the length of the year.”

And the player movement already is underway. The Ice Flyers have traded Nick Lazorko to Fayetteville for right winger John Clewlow, and the rights to defenseman Mike Kavanagh.

As for Friday evening, the puck drops at 7:05 at the Bay Center.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.