Motor City Rockers - Week in Review - 1/22/24 to 1/28/24
Motor City Rockers - Week in Review - 2/5/24 to 2/11/24

Motor City Rockers - Week in Review - 1/29/24 to 2/4/24

Week in Review 1-29

After spending the last two weeks home in Michigan, it was back to the road for the Motor City Rockers with a trip to New York for three games in three nights this weekend. This marked the second to last out of state trek for the Rockers left on the schedule as the rest of the season will be extremely home heavy, and should be advantageous to their playoff positioning. 

Before the weekend's games, it was time for the inevitable roster changes and those started on Tuesday the 30th. Nick Magill-Diaz' return was short-lived as he headed back to the SPHL, this time with the Birmingham Bulls signing him to a standard player contract. The next day, the Rockers announced a trade as they acquired forward Nick Gullo from the Elmira River Sharks in exchange for the often traded "future considerations". This is a significant move for Motor City, Gullo stood out almost immediately when I first saw him in action last season for the Elmira Mammoth. Listed at just 5'6", 165lbs., he'll be the smallest guy on the ice most every night. But he'll also give you everything he has, getting under opponent's skin, playing feisty when needed, he can be a real pest, but he is lightning quick and offensively gifted. He's the kind of player you hate on the opposing team but love on yours. He reminds me in many ways of, for now, former Rocker Cade Lambdin. Trust me when I say the Motor City faithful are going to love Gullo in a Rockers jersey. He started his pro career in 2018-19 skating in one game for the Danville Dashers back when this was just the Federal Hockey League. The next season, he played 47 games with the Dashers, scoring seven goals and adding twenty assists. His best pro season was spent in Elmira just last year when he scored ten goals with 27 assists for 37 points in 43 games with the Mammoth. Gullo has also spent time in the SPHL, playing in 31 career games there, including seven this season between Quad City and Knoxville.         

As the weekend approached and the team prepared for their last bus ride of the regular season to the city of New York, there was more roster shuffling Thursday. TJ Sneath was placed on the IR. Sneath last played on January 20th against Port Huron. Defenseman DeVon Fields was released from the roster to make room for Erik Oganezov who joined the team for the third time this season. He has primarily been used as a fill-in when the team has made the trek to New York and needs a healthy defenseman to fill out the roster. Coming into the weekend he has skated in eight games for Motor City, picking up two assists. Fields has been playing very well this season for the Rockers, skating in ten games with a goal and two assists with solid work on defense, but its my understanding he too is not fully healthy, hence the move. Added for the second time was forward Cole Therrien who played two games for the Rockers on their last road trip to New York back on January 5th and 6th, going scoreless. 

The trio of games started off Friday in Binghamton with a rematch against the first place Black Bears. The Rockers would rather forget their first contest in Binghamton back on January 6th when the Black Bears laid it on them in an 8-1 victory. But as I said at the time, Motor City was missing several key players from the lineup including Scott Coash and Nick Magill-Diaz, as well as Trevor Babin in net, who was out serving a suspension. Rookie goalie Ricardo Gonzalez was shelled with 64 shots on net, not many goalies are put in a position to win having to face that kind of a workload. This time Babin was in net, and Coash in the lineup, but the outcome was still not to Motor City's liking as Binghamton won it by a score of 6-3. The Black Bears jumped out to a 3-1 lead after one period on the strength of two goals from Donald Olivieri. TJ Delaney picked up the only Motor City goal of the period on a shorthanded tally at 12:01 from Jonathan Juliano. Binghamton picked up the only goal of the second from Andrew Logar and then Olivieri completed his hat trick at 5:22 of the third to put the Blacl Bears in command up 5-1. The Rockers did get a couple back, picking up a powerplay goal from Josh Colten at 12:06 from Mike Winn and TJ Delaney, and a late goal at 19:22 when Erik Oganezov got his first of the season from Colten and George Holt, but it was not enough as the Black Bears prevailed 6-3. Babin faced 45 shots on the night, while Motor City could only put 28 on his counterpart in net, Connor McAnanama.       

The scene then shifted to Watertown Saturday night for the first of two with the Wolves, and this was a wild one all the way around. Ricky Gonzalez got the nod in net for the Rockers, while it was Eloi Bouchard starting for Watertown. It only took 24 seconds for Elias Thompson to drop the gloves with the Wolves' Justin Schmit. These two had fought each other four previous times this season coming into the game and continued their streak with a helluva battle at center ice, both getting in plenty of shots. But this wouldn't be the last tango for these two on this Saturday night, more on that later. With the fists done flying for now, the pucks started flying into the net. After Watertown struck first on a goal from Lincoln Gingerich at 2:53, Motor City tied it at 6:59 when Josh Colten sniped one from between the face-off circles past Bouchard for his second goal of the weekend and eighth of the season from Adam Kuhn and Roman Gaudet. Then at 10:56, Nick Gullo picked up his first goal as a Rocker as he was sent in on a clean breakaway on a beautiful feed from Pavel Svintsov. Gullo went to the backhand for his third goal of the season overall. Scott Coash picked up the second helper on the go-ahead goal. But Watertown evened it up four minutes later on a goal from Carter Thornton to make it 2-2 after one period of play. 

The second period started with another Thompson vs. Schmit fight, but this one was something you don't see every day. Before the puck drop, both skated to their respective benches and shed their gear for a shirtless boxing match. They danced around a bit, threw some punches that didn't have much impact, then ended it with pats on the back, flexing for the entertained crowd, and game misconducts for each. Only in The Fed. Once play resumed, the Rockers struck first and early at 1:22 when TJ Delaney picked up the rebound off a shot by Mike Winn and fired it in for his second of the weekend and fifteenth goal of the season. Jonathan Juliano picked up the other assist on the goal and Motor City had regained the lead at 3-2. Watertown rebounded and took the lead back on goals from Marc Bottero and Chiwetin Blacksmith making it 4-3 Wolves after two. The period also featured a couple more fights, although the first one hardly qualified. Watertown's Joshua Tomasi took down Gonzalez in a scrum which got the attention of Jamie Milam who came in and grabbed Tomasi. Milam never took his gloves off while Tomasi threw his and got in a couple punches as the two wrestled, yet somehow Milam picked up a fighting major as well. Make it make sense. Then Watertown's Trevor Lord got into a scrum with Nick Gullo which resulted in the much bigger Lord cross checking Gullo to the ice from behind and Scott Coash came in to drop the gloves with Lord. As I said earlier, Gullo gets under the skin of the opposition and both Milam and Coash standing up for their teammates was fantastic to see. 

The deadly Motor City powerplay struck at 3:19 of the third to even things again. Gullo and Coash got the assists as Jamie Milam blasted an equally deadly slapshot past Bouchard, with the help of a Tristen Wells screen in front, to knot it at four on his sixth goal of the season. The Rockers struck again on the powerplay at 6:45 when Jonathan Juliano was in the right place at the right time at the side of the net to pick up his twelfth of the season from Winn and Colten to put Motor City in front 5-4. But the lead was short-lived as barely a minute later, Tate Leeson tied it for Watertown at 7:57. Things stayed tied until the 15:34 mark of the third when the puck came loose in front of the net and Juliano blew it past Bouchard for the 6-5 Motor City lead. Now if you look at the "official" scoring on the FPHL site, it says Tristen Wells scored this goal, but he most certainly did not. Watch the replay available to all on YouTube, the puck comes to Juliano who takes the shot. Now Wells may have scored the goal credited to Milam earlier in the period on a tip, but he most certainly did not score this one. Once again, an egregious error in the official scoring of a game that really makes this league look silly. So it wasn't Wells' goal but that's who was credited for it, throwing the season stats off as well as it now shows Wells has three on the season. The assists were given to Winn and Gaudet, let's hope those are at least right. I'll have more to say about this in a separate piece, as it happens way too often in this league. Motor City was unable to hold on though as Watertown picked up a powerplay goal of their own at 17:43 from Noah Doyle to tie it up 6-6, and that's where it stood as action headed to overtime. 

Watertown out-shot the Rockers 4-1 in the overtime, but nothing was settled as neither team could score so that sent things to the shootout. Each team's first three shooters were snuffed out but Motor City's Pavel Svintsov finally got one past Bouchard and when Gonzalez stoned Mike Mercurio, the Rockers celebrated the 7-6 victory, their first shootout win on the season. Gonzalez may have given up six goals, but he made fifty saves on the evening and completely shut down the Wolves in the overtime and shootout, earning the win. 

It was going to be tough to match the craziness of Saturday's game in the final game of the weekend, but Sunday did have its moments. There would be no Thompson vs. Schmit rematch, however, as both were suspended after their "tarps off" Saturday night fight. Babin was back in net for Motor City with Bouchard returning between the pipes for the Wolves. The Rockers wasted no time getting on the scoresheet as Scott Coash fed the puck ahead to Nick Gullo who turned on the jets, split the defense and came in alone on Bouchard, beating him on the backhand much like he did Saturday for his second goal as a Rocker and fourth on the season just 52 seconds in. Watertown tied things up at the 13:26 mark off the stick of Aleksandr Gamzatov to make it 1-1 through one period.

The Wolves took the lead in the second at the 2:43 mark when Joshua Tomasi beat Babin, but in the aftermath of the goal, Tate Leeson was down in a heap behind the net. He caught Babin's stick up high as he skated through the crease after the goal and the officials ruled it was an illegal check to the head by Babin, a match penalty that ended his night early and sent the Wolves on a five minute powerplay. So back came Ricardo Gonzalez in net after thinking he would have this night off, never an easy situation for a goaltender. But what could have been a devastating turn of events for Motor City became the turning point of the game in a positive way. Not only did the Rockers kill the five minute major off, they scored the only goal on a shorthanded tally off the stick of Scott Coash at 5:54 to tie things at two. Pavel Svintsov and Josh Colten picked up the assists on the pretty backhander from Coash, his team leading seventeenth goal. With the momentum on their side, the Rockers took control from there. Roman Gaudet scored from the side of the net at 9:48 to put Motor City in front 3-2, his fifth goal of the season. Then at 14:53, Motor City took advantage of a turnover in the Watertown zone and a pretty passing play resulted in Cole Therrien's first professional goal from Adam Kuhn and Josh Colten. The Rockers took the 4-2 lead into the second intermission.

Watertown temporarily got back into it just 1:34 into the third off the stick of Joshua Tomasi. But the shootout hero from Saturday, Pavel Svintsov, picked up his seventh goal of the season on the powerplay from Coash and Jamie Milam at 7:35 to make it 5-3. Gaudet closed out the scoring with his second of the night, an empty net goal at 16:56, for the 6-3 final. Gonzalez stopped 36 of 37 shots after taking over for Babin early in the second.         

After the rough start to the weekend in Binghamton, Motor City took five of six points from Watertown making it a very successful road trip. Danbury only picked up one point over the weekend in their two games against Carolina so as Motor City heads back home, they hold a nine point lead over the Hat Tricks for second place in the Empire Division. They trail first place Binghamton by seventeen points, but it will be those Black Bears coming to Fraser this coming weekend for two games at Big Boy Arena, their first time playing in the Motor City this season. Yes, Binghamton has out-scored the Rockers 14-4 in two games so far this season, but now Motor City gets to play on their home ice with six points on the line. They will have to play Friday night without Babin, who was suspended for one game by the league Monday for the stick incident in Sunday's contest. But it could have been a lot worse and Gonzalez is coming off a fantastic bounce-back weekend, and the hope is that carries over to Friday's game where he will be called upon to help upset Binghamton. Friday's game is a 7:35 face-off, followed by Saturday's 6:05 start.

Gonzalez - RSOTW

ROCK STAR OF THE WEEK: This was the toughest week yet since I've started these weekly recaps to pick one player. So many had big weekends. Josh Colten picked up two goals and had four assists. TJ Delaney had two goals and an assist. Mike Winn had four assists. Jonathan Juliano had one goal and two assists officially, even though he was screwed out of a second goal by a poor official scoring mistake. Pavel Svintsov had two goals, including the Saturday shootout winner, and two assists. Roman Gaudet had two goals and two assists. Scott Coash had one goal and four assists. Nick Gullo had two goals and one assist in his first weekend as a Rocker. It was quite a display of offense by this Motor City team. But my Rock Star of the Week has to go to Ricardo Gonzalez. Without him in net, Motor City doesn't get these five points in Watertown. Fifty saves on Saturday, including his stoning of the Wolves in the shootout, stopping all four shooters. Then Sunday, having to come in cold after Babin's ejection and stopping 36 of 37 shots. For those keeping track at home, Ricky faced 93 shots on net this weekend in Watertown and came away with 86 saves and two huge victories. An absolute Rock Star performance by the rookie goaltender. 

Special thank you to Josh Woods at J. Woods Photography for the picture of Ricky Gonzalez. Josh has some awesome pictures from Rockers' games, along with other cool shots, up at his Facebook page here and on his Instagram at j.woodsphotography. Give him a follow and thanks again Josh!    

ROCKERS ON RECALL: As mentioned at the top of this post, Nick Magill-Diaz made his way back to the SPHL this week, this time for his first stint with the Birmingham Bulls. He played in three games, scoring his first SPHL goal of the season for the Bulls Thursday night in a 2-1 victory over Macon. Congrats to Nick!     

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