February 7, 2013 - North American Hockey League (NAHL) - Soo Eagles
Here they go again.
A testy troop of Jamestown Ironmen will hit the road to play the Soo Eagles this coming weekend as the top two teams in the North Division of the North American Hockey League square off.
Expect the Ironmen to be in an irritable mood when they arrive up north for a Friday-Saturday doubleheader of games at venerable Pullar Stadium in the Michigan Soo.
Not only have the Ironmen lost three straight games to fall out of first place in the North Division but they were swept by the visiting Eagles on home ice last week.
With 64 points from a record of 30-10-4, the Eagles are perched atop the North Division standings. The Ironmen are tied for second place (with the Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings) with 58 points from a record of 27-13-4.
The Eagles have owned the Ironmen by taking five of six games between the two teams thus far this season. The Eagles are 2-0 against the Ironmen at the Pullar and 3-1 in games at Jamestown Savings Bank Arena.
"I would think that they are going to come in here with something to prove," Eagles coach-general manager Bruno Bragagnolo said of the Ironmen. "We've had some real hard-fought games with them this season."
Indeed, the Eagles and Ironmen seem to have acquired a distinct dislike for one another this season with several of the games being on the chippy side.
Eagles that the Ironmen will have to closely watch are top scoring forwards Jared VanWormer (16-35-51), Eric Rivard (21-29-50) and Alexander Taulien (14-21-35). And veteran defenders Cody von Rueden, Michael Lant and Kyle Froese head an Eagle blueline brigade in front of undisputed starting goalie Tyler Marble, who has a 21-5-3 record to go with a 2.27 goals against average and .939 save percentage this season.
The Eagles also feature a trio of rambunctious rookies of hot-blooded Italian descent: forward Mike Sabatini and defencmen Pat Gazzillo and Dante Suffredini.
Meanwhile, Jamestown heads to to the Soo led by intense coach-general manager Dan Daikawa, who has taken the Ironmen from a last-place team in 2011-2012 to a contender this 2012-2013 season.
Daikawa has assembled a veteran group led by top-scoring forwards Luc Gerdes (21-15-36) and Ryan Doucet (11-19-30.) Seasoned defencemen include Dylan Zink, Matt Lanzillotti and the truculent Tyler Minx, who has racked up 156 minutes in penalties this season.
Minx, along with fibrous forwards Ross Pavek, Joe Mottiqua, Huba Sekesi, Elliot Tisdale and Ryan Urso all have a nasty side, which could lead to a few fireworks at the old Pullar barn this weekend.