Motor City Rockers News

Motor City Rockers - Week in Review - 2/12/24 to 2/18/24

WIR 2-12

Coming off their huge 3-1 win over first place Binghamton last Saturday, the Motor City Rockers looked to keep things rolling in a positive direction with another weekend battle against their I-94 rivals, the Port Huron Prowlers.  Coming into this weekend, the FPHL's only two Michigan teams had faced each other eleven times, with the Rockers having won six of those contests. But Motor City won the first four meetings of the season between the two teams, so the Prowlers have rebounded to make the Battle of I-94 close with seven contests still remaining, including the two this weekend.

Before we get to the games, a quick look at what changed for Motor City roster-wise. And it was a fairly quiet week for roster moves with a notable exception. On Thursday, Jonathan Juliano had his PTO extended for another four games, while the Rockers activated two players from injured reserve. Forward TJ Sneath is back to help add depth to the offense. Sneath had scored nine goals in just thirteen games before getting hurt. But the big news of the week was the return of team captain Danny Vanderwiel,who has been out since December 2nd. By now, we all know the story. Vanderwiel was on the receiving end of a dangerous, dirty hit by then Danbury forward Daniel Amesbury, who afterwards was first suspended for eighteen games, and then subsequently banished from the league indefinitely. Thankfully, over two months later, Vanderwiel, an actual hockey player and not a circus sideshow like Amesbury, was given the all clear to return to the ice for game action. The only downside of Motor City getting healthy was that meant someone had to go to open up a roster spot and unfortunately it was forward Adam Kuhn. Kuhn, who had not played professionally since the 2011-12 season with Pensacola of the SPHL, fit right in with the Rockers, scoring six goals and adding four assists for ten points in sixteen games. Adam is from Southgate and is another of those local players who could be called on when needed if another roster spot opens up, so we may not have seen the last of him. His contributions while the team was shorthanded will not be forgotten, best of luck to Adam.     

Now on to the action on the ice, starting with Friday night's match-up in Port Huron. Trevor Babin got the start in net for the Rockers while Port Huron countered with Ian Wallace. After a scoreless first period, Motor City turned it up in the second, beating Wallace three times. Tristen Wells got things started at 5:49 with his fourth goal of the season from Jamie Milam. Then Milam got one of his own from almost the exact same spot at 13:49 from Ryan Rotondi and George Holt, his eighth of the season. Scott Coash then picked up his nineteenth of the season from Pavel Svintsov at 15:17 to make it 3-0 Rockers after two. Motor City would add two more in the third, first from Josh Colten, his ninth from Coash and Mike Winn at 2:39. Milam picked up his second of the game, and ninth of the season, on the power play from the returning captain Danny Vanderwiel and TJ Delaney at 6:01. Unfortunately, Austin Fetterly spoiled Babin's shutout bid at 14:41 with his twelfth goal, but the Rockers still cruised to the commanding 5-1 win with Babin stopping 33 of 34 Port Huron shots. As you'd expect, once Motor City opened up the 5-0 lead, the Prowlers resorted to some dirty tactics, setting the stage for Saturday night's rematch back in Fraser.

Babin would get the call in net again for Motor City at Big Boy Arena, while Port Huron started Makar Sokolov instead Saturday. The first period was pretty much controlled by the Prowlers and it paid off with a goal each from Dan Chartrand and Evan Foley for a 2-0 lead after one. The next goal in the game was absolutely critical and Babin kept Motor City's chance to get that goal intact with a spectacular save just 1:20 into the second. With the Rockers on the power play, the puck came out to center ice and sent the Prowlers in on a two on none break. Sam Marit sent the pass across to Alex Johnson but Babin went post to post for the stunning save to keep it 2-0. To me, this was the turning point of the game and sure enough, Motor City took advantage. After some steady pressure in the Port Huron zone, Mike Winn sent one towards the net that eluded Sokolov to cut the lead in half at 5:56. For Winn, it was his third goal of the season with the assists going to Josh Colten and TJ Sneath. Then with the Rockers back on the power play, Trevor Babin got himself on the scoresheet with an outlet pass to Josh Colten who found Scott Coash streaking to the net. Coash went to the backhand for his twentieth of the season at 8:19 to tie it at two where it stayed heading into the third. The assist was Babin's first point of the season.

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The third period turned into a bit of a Ref Show as the Rockers found themselves shorthanded early and often. Tristen Wells got into a wrestling match at center ice with Port Huron's Bryan Parsons and found himself sent to the box with a double minor at 2:35. Enter the Motor City penalty kill which killed off both penalties with relative ease. But the Rockers couldn't relax for long as just two seconds after Wells left the box, Ryan Rotondi was headed in for a roughing call at 6:37. Motor City again killed that off. But just seconds later they were called for a too many men on the ice penalty at 8:55. And once again the penalty kill showed up big time. Then at 11:36, Jonathan Juliano snuck behind the defense and was sent in on a breakaway on a perfect pass from DeVon Fields where he beat Sokolov for the 3-2 Motor City lead. TJ Sneath picked up the other helper on Juliano's fourteenth of the season. A goal like that would normally be back breaking, and the Prowlers looked a bit stunned on the ice after failing to capitalize on all the power play time, but they had another chance at 14:27 when Fields was sent off for roughing on what looked to me like a clean open ice hit. The Rocker penalty kill again snuffed out the Port Huron power play, but the Prowlers were able to keep it in the Motor City zone and Evan Foley tipped in a loose puck to the side of Babin to tie it at three at 16:38. That's where things ended in regulation and this one was headed to overtime.

It did not take long for this one to be decided in the extra period as TJ Delaney and Josh Colten broke out on a two-on-one break. Delaney fed it to Colten who was stopped by Sokolov but that left a juicy rebound there for Delaney to bury into the back of the net for the game winner just 35 seconds into OT, his seventeenth of the season. And fittingly enough, on the weekend of his return, Danny Vanderwiel started the break-out with the other assist. 

So the Rockers win both games this weekend, taking five of a possible six points from the Prowlers, to go up 8-5 in the Battle of I-94. With Binghamton off this weekend, Motor City shaved their deficit down to fifteen points behind the first place Black Bears, although the Rockers have played two more games. Danbury, however, had a good weekend against Watertown, picking up seven points in three games against the Wolves. So at the end of this weekend's play, Motor City leads the Hat Tricks by ten points for second place in the Empire Division, and home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. 

Things do not get any easier for the Rockers this weekend as the best team in the FPHL, the Columbus River Dragons, come to town for a three game set. Columbus has 27 regulation wins and another three wins in the overtime or shootout. They've only been beaten three times in regulation over 35 games this season. They're a juggernaut and this will be Motor City's biggest test yet this season. Last season the Rockers went 2-3 against Columbus in the regular season, with those two wins coming in a similar three game home stand at Big Boy Arena in March, including a 5-0 win and shutout for Trevor Babin. The two teams then met in the first round of the playoffs with the River Dragons sweeping the series 2-0. I'd happily take a repeat of last season's three game weekend and settle for two Motor City wins this year. It should be a great weekend of playoff level hockey at Big Boy Arena. 

Milam - RSOTW

ROCK STAR OF THE WEEK: It's another week where I could just give it to Trevor Babin again given his near shutout Friday and his saves to keep Motor City in the game Saturday to help set the stage for the comeback victory. Josh Colten had a big weekend too with a goal and three assists. But the veteran Jamie Milam picked up two goals Friday, including the game winner, added an assist and even dropped the gloves. And of course, he was his usual rock steady self on the blueline all weekend, making him my Rock Star of the Week.

ROCKERS ON RECALL: Nick Magill-Diaz remains with the Birmingham Bulls of the SPHL where he has now played in eight games. He picked up an assist this weekend, so he now has a goal and an assist for the Bulls, while also boasting a +8 while on the ice.


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

Week in Review 2-5

This was a big week for the Motor City Rockers. They had faced the first place Binghamton Black Bears twice previously, both games in New York, and came out on the losing end of 8-1 and 6-3 finals. But this past weekend was their first chance to face the division leaders on their home ice as Binghamton came to Fraser for a pair of games at Big Boy Arena. The Black Bears came into the Motor City leading the Rockers by a comfortable 17 points for the division lead, but this weekend was more about Motor City proving they could play on the same level as their foes from New York. 

As usual, before we can get to the games, we have to cover the roster changes that took place this week and it was a much more quiet week than we have seen lately. To no one's surprise, two players that helped out on last weekend's trip to New York were released. Defenseman Erik Oganezov was let go for the third time this season, fulfilling his role as a spot player when needed for road trips. He played in all three games on the New York trip, picking up his first goal as a Rocker as well. He has now played in eleven games for Motor City this season with two assists to go along with that goal. Forward Cole Therrien was also released, and like Oganezov, he played in all three games in New York, also scoring his first goal as a Rocker, his first professional goal as well. Therrien has now skated in five games for Motor City with that one goal to his credit. With the open roster spot and the team returning home, local defenseman DeVon Fields was signed back to the roster. I've already made it very clear here how much I like his game and how well he has played this season, so this news certainly made me happy. With Trevor Babin serving a one game suspension, and out for Friday's game, the Rockers also brought back Blake Scott as their backup goaltender for Friday night's contest, releasing him afterwards with Babin set to return. 

With Babin out, the starting goaltending duties were back on the shoulders of Ricardo Gonzalez Friday. Ricky was a huge part of Motor City's two wins in Watertown last weekend and was looking to fare better than his first outing against Binghamt0n, an 8-1 loss with Babin also suspended for that game. The Black Bears had Connor McAnanama back in net after he had won the previous two games against the Rockers. This was a wild, back and forth, high scoring affair that started with the Rockers getting their only lead of the night at the 10:15 mark of the first when Roman Gaudet scored his seventh goal of the season from TJ Delaney and Jonathan Juliano. Binghamton was able to tie it, however, when Gavin Yates came out of the penalty box and broke in alone on Gonzalez for the tying goal at 15:52 after the Rockers lost possession late in their power play.

Newly signed Andrew Uturo made it 2-1 Black Bears just 44 seconds into the second period on a pretty passing play, but the Rockers responded at 8:37 on the power play when Jamie Milam fired in his seventh of the season from Nick Gullo and Pavel Svintsov to even things at two. Binghamton took the lead back at 11:56 when Yates picked up his second of the game, but Motor City again evened the scored at 16:31 when Ryan Rotondi got his first of the season unassisted. The Rockers could not get it to the locker room tied however, as Dakota Bohn made it 4-3 Black Bears with just 29 seconds left in the period.

Motor City again tied it at 7:08 of the third when Scott Coash buried his eighteenth of the season from Svintsov and Rotondi but just 22 seconds later, Binghamton was right back in front when Jesse Anderson beat Gonzalez. The Black Bears were finally able to get the game's first two goal lead at 11:53 on the power play when Bohn picked up his second of the night. But Motor City got a power play goal of their own at 13:38 off the stick of Jonathan Juliano, his thirteenth of the season from Mike Winn and TJ Delaney, to cut it back to 6-5. The Rockers did pull Gonzalez for the extra attacker and had numerous face-offs in the Binghamton zone, but could not win the needed draws and Bohn finally put the game away at 19:25 with his hat trick goal, into the empty net, for the 7-5 victory. Gonzalez did give up six goals on 29 shots but I really cannot fault him on any of them. All of Binghamton's goals were either perfectly executed passing plays or dead-on shots that would elude most goaltenders. This was just an offensive shootout and the Rockers came up short in front of 809 fans.

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Saturday the building was a little more lively with 1,018 in attendance, and Babin was also back between the pipes for Motor City. With an afternoon game in Elmira scheduled for Sunday, what genius came up with that scheduling by the way, Binghamton switched goalies to Nolan Egbert Saturday. The Black Bears did strike first when Austin Thompson bested Babin at 11:29 of the first to give them a 1-0 lead after one. The always hard working George Holt tied things up at 12:20 of the second with his first goal as a Rocker from DeVon Fields and Scott Coash. Fields was in the middle of a lot in this one as he delivered the hit of the season on Binghamton's Josh Fletcher with 9:11 left in the second. Fields leveled him with a clean open ice hit near center ice. While clean, it was a hit you knew he might have to answer for at some point. Motor City then took the lead at 17:14 of the second on a two-on-one. Jonathan Juliano put the shot on net and the juicy rebound came right out to TJ Delaney who found the open net for his sixteenth of the season and a 2-1 advantage after two. Binghamton's coach Brant Sherwood would not be around to see the third however, as he went ballistic on the bench at the end of the period and picked up a bench minor and a game misconduct for abuse of officials.

With the Sherwood penalty, Motor City started the third on a power play but were gifted a two man advantage 54 seconds in when Jesse Anderson went to the box for tripping. The Rockers cashed in at 1:40 when Adam Kuhn picked up his sixth of the season on a pretty give and go passing play with Jonathan Juliano. TJ Delaney drew the other assist and it was 3-1 Motor City. Binghamton did get Fields to drop the gloves at 9:38 of the third, to answer for a clean hit I guess, but Andrew Logar picked the wrong guy to tussle with and was easily disposed of in the fight. The rest of the game was a testament to sound defensive play and the work of Babin who stopped 37 of 38 shots on a night Motor City was out-shot 38-18. An all around team effort as the Rockers picked up their first win of the season against Binghamton 3-1.

Both of these games had all the intensity and feel of a playoff series. It was fantastic, hard nosed hockey for sixty minutes each night. My feeling was Motor City needed to gain at least a split in these two games to prove to themselves, and the league, they can beat this Black Bears team. They were right there with them all weekend in two competitive contests. So the Rockers end the weekend where they started in relation to Binghamton, seventeen points back of first place. But more importantly, in my opinion, they increased their lead over third place Danbury. The Hat Tricks dropped both games of a home and home with Elmira, so Motor City now has a twelve point cushion over Danbury, having played one more game. That is crucial as far as maintaining home ice advantage in the first round of the FPHL playoffs. The Rockers will be back at it this weekend with another two game set with their I-94 rivals, the Port Huron Prowlers. Friday night's game is up at McMorran Place, before the teams return to Big Boy Arena for a 6:05 PM Saturday battle. These two teams definitely do not care for each other, I expect these will be two can't miss games.

Babin RSOTW

ROCK STAR OF THE WEEK: Once again there were a number of players deserving of the honors. Jonathan Juliano had a four point weekend with one goal and three assists. TJ Delaney put up the same numbers, including the game winning goal Saturday. Pavel Svintsov and Ryan Rotondi each had two point weekends. But for his 37 save performance Saturday in Motor City's first win of the season over Binghamton, I have to go with Trevor Babin for my Rock Star of the Week. Many of his saves were of the spectacular variety and after giving up the game's first goal, he was just a wall in net the Black Bears could not get through. It was the type of performance you'll need from your star goalie come playoff time to eke out tough wins and Babin delivered.   

ROCKERS ON RECALL: Defenseman Nick Magill-Diaz remains with the Birmingham Bulls of the SPHL. He has now played in five games for the Bulls, with one goal, and is +5.                   


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!     


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

Week in Review 1-22

After last weekend's disappointment of dropping two games to Port Huron, the Motor City Rockers were looking forward to three at home this weekend with Wytheville Virginia's own Blue Ridge Bobcats. With the roster reinforced with returning faces, and the last place team in the league in town, this was an opportunity for Motor City to get back in the win column and rack up some points in the competitive Empire Division in front of their home fans.

Let's start with the roster as the Motor City Roster Shuffle continued this past week. With Scott Coash and TJ Delaney already back with the team, the Rockers got another shot in the arm when their last player still in the SPHL returned home. Defenseman Nick Magill-Diaz was released from his contract with Pensacola after playing in six games, picking up one assist. He's a key piece on the Motor City defense so it's great to have him back. Forward Roman Gaudet was also activated from the IR and veteran Jonathan Juliano once again had his PTO extended an additional four games. Additions to the roster mean subtractions have to happen and this time the roster shuffle involved defensemen Dante Suffredini, Cam Burt and forward Cade Lambdin, who were all released. As has been mentioned here before, Suffredini and Burt have other obligations locally so they are candidates to return again, this is the second time both have been released from the roster already. Lambdin appears to have been hurt during the home game against Port Huron last week, so that roster move was more about bringing in a healthy body. He joined the team this season in mid-December and has played in nine games so far as a point a game player with two goals and seven assists. Before Saturday's game the team also brought back George Holt who was released last week after playing in five games. He's from the area and can play forward and defense, so once again another local player who they can utilize when needed. 

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Now onto the games this weekend, starting with Friday's contest at Big Boy Arena. The Rockers struck first when Scott Coash picked up his fifteenth goal of the season and achieved a bigger milestone with his 100th career regular season FPHL point. Declan Conway and DeVon Fields assisted on the goal at 14:16 to make it 1-0 Motor City after one. Jonathan Juliano made it 2-0 at 16:47 of the second, beating Bobcats goalie Owen Liskiewicz for his tenth goal of the season from Jamie Milam and Pavel Svintsov. Blue Ridge finally got one past Trevor Babin at 18:05 off the stick of Justin Daly who deflected a shot from former Rocker Brandon Contratto to cut it to 2-1. But Conway got a back breaker with just ten seconds left in the period burying his fourteenth of the season unassisted to make it 3-1 Motor City after two. Babin stayed strong in net once again, stopping 31 shots on the night and TJ Delaney added an empty net goal with just three seconds left for the 4-1 final before 988 fans.        

Saturday night the Rockers had their biggest crowd of the season as 1,383 were in attendance on Autism Awareness Night and Girl Scout Night. The home town hockey team gave them a lot to cheer about in a 5-2 victory that also featured three fights as things got feisty in the second period. DeVon Fields got things started at 12:59 of the first when he flipped the puck towards the net and surprised Blue Ridge netminder Connor Green who flubbed it. Officially this is the first professional goal for Fields, but he has been robbed of two to my knowledge in road games going back to last season when the official scorer did not correctly credit the goal scorer. Glad to finally see him get one officially, but us stat geeks who play close attention have you down for three DeVon. Less than a minute later, Jonathan Juliano picked up his second of the weekend, and eleventh of the season, unassisted at 13:42 to make it 2-0 Motor City. Vlasov Vladislav got one back for Blue Ridge, beating Babin at 16:53 to make it 2-1 Rockers after one. TJ Delaney opened up the second with a huge momentum swing of a goal, breaking in short handed and blasting it past Green for his second of the weekend and thirteenth of the season just 31 seconds in. As mentioned, the period featured three fights as Tristen Wells, Elias Thompson and Adam Kuhn all dropped the gloves for Motor City. Blue Ridge got it back to 3-2 early in the third when Ricards Jelenskis scored unassisted at 1:56 but goals from Roman Gaudet at 3:07 and Coash at 18:00 clinched the 5-2 win for Motor City. Babin had 28 saves in the victory.

That set things up for the weekend finale Sunday afternoon, a quick turnaround with a 2:05 puck drop. Not surprisingly, Babin was given the day off with Ricardo Gonzalez getting the start in net, while Liskiewicz returned between the pipes for Blue Ridge after having Saturday off. It took just fourteen seconds for Motor City to get on the board when Adam Kuhn scored his fifth of the season from Tristen Wells and George Holt, Holt's first point as a Rocker. Contratto tied it at one with his second point of the weekend against his former team at 6:08 before Nick Magill-Diaz put Motor City back up by one at 9:40 from Milam and Holt. But the Rockers would not get another one past Liskiewicz the rest of the afternoon and the Bobcats tied it in the second on Jakub Volf's team leading eleventh of the season at 11:30 before Jelenskis got his second of the weekend at 8:14 of the third to give Blue Ridge their first lead in the three games. Josh Newberg added an empty net goal at 19:56 and the Bobcats took the third game of the weekend 4-2.                 

So the Rockers take six of a possible nine from Blue Ridge, not the perfect weekend you would have hoped for, but it did allow them to increase their lead over third place Danbury. The Hat Tricks won their only game of the weekend so the Rockers now lead them by five points for second place, it just could have been eight had they completed the sweep Sunday. Motor City now prepares for another three game weekend as they travel back to New York. Friday night they're back in Binghamton where they were trounced by the Black Bears 8-1 back on the sixth of January. But that was a team missing Babin to a suspension and several key players such as Coash and Magill-Diaz who were in the SPHL at the time. I expect a much tougher battle this time, although they may need to do it without Declan Conway who left Sunday's game in a lot of pain in the first period. After the game in Binghamton, the Rockers close out the weekend with two against the Watertown Wolves. These three will be Motor City's final games in New York this regular season. 

Coash - RSOTW

ROCK STAR OF THE WEEK: A number of players were candidates this week. Trevor Babin got two wins in net, only allowing three goals in the two games. Jonathan Juliano and TJ Delaney each scored two goals this weekend and a number of other players had multi-point weekends. But the Rock Star of the Week this time goes to Scott Coash who scored twice, including the goal Friday night which gave him 100 career regular season points in the FPHL. Congrats to Scott on this career milestone.    


Motor City Rockers - Week in Review - 1/15/24 to 1/21/24

Week in Review 1-15

This has been a rough stretch for the Motor City Rockers. There has been all the roster turnover which I have covered extensively here. That has led to a lack of cohesion on the ice at times and losing two of their last three coming into this weekend's games with Port Huron, being out-scored 15-2 in those losses. The hope was being back home would help right the ship and enable the team to start racking up much needed points as the Danbury Hat Tricks are now nipping at their heels for second place in the Empire Division. But it was a disappointing weekend in the Motor City as the Rockers dropped both games to their Michigan rivals, the Port Huron Prowlers. 

Roster reinforcements were added before the weekend games when Dante Suffredini, Ryan Rotondi and Cam Burt all rejoined the team now that they are back in Michigan for the rest of the month. To make room for the three returnees, the team released James Kakos, Jared Mullen and John Horn who were all brought in the weekend prior as fill-in players while the team was in Wytheville, Virginia. Of the three, only Horn picked up a point, getting an assist against the Bobcats. I dove a little more in depth to these roster moves and you can read that here

With the familiar faces back, the Rockers hosted the Prowlers Friday night at Big Boy Arena before a raucous crowd of 1,153. There was a lot of heckling and back and forth between the fans and certain Port Huron players, everything you'd want in a minor league hockey atmosphere. The teams played to a scoreless draw in the first with Motor City's Trevor Babin stopping all seven Prowler shots, while his opponent in net, Tucker Tynan, handled all eleven shots the Rockers sent his way. It was Port Huron who would strike in the second however, with Sam Marit scoring just 34 seconds into the period, then Alex Johnson rifling one past Babin at 17:30 for the 2-0 lead after two. Even though Motor City was credited with 23 shots through two periods, there weren't many of the dangerous variety and the loss of goal scorers like Scott Coash and TJ Delaney was noticeable, as was the absence of center Declan Conway who sat out with an injury. 

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It looked bleak for the Rockers when Austin Fetterly scored an unassisted goal just 1:59 into the third for the 3-0 Port Huron lead. But Adam Kuhn breathed some life into the team and crowd with his fourth of the season at 4:31, finishing off a pretty passing play with the assists going to Cam Burt and Tim Delaney. The assist was the first professional point for the younger Delaney and it was nice to see him rewarded as he has solidly done his job on defense all season in his rookie year. Motor City had a golden opportunity to get even closer when Port Huron picked up a bench minor for too many men on the ice at 5:16, but in a back-breaking turn of events, Dalton Jay took advantage of a bad pass and went in alone on Babin and buried an unassisted shorthanded goal at 6:52 to make it 4-1 Prowlers. To the Rockers' credit, they did not quit fighting. TJ Sneath picked up a powerplay goal at 7:20, his ninth of the season from Jamie Milam and Mike Winn to cut it to 4-2. Then at 9:46 Jonathan Juliano also picked up his ninth of the season from Burt and Milam and it was suddenly 4-3 with still over half the third period remaining and Big Boy Arena was electric. Unfortunately, Motor City could not get the equalizer and didn't even get a chance to pull Babin for the extra attacker as Liam Freeborn spoiled the party at 17:39 to put the game away for Port Huron at 5-3.    

The Rockers received a real shot in the arm early Saturday when it was announced that both Scott Coash and TJ Delaney would be rejoining the team in Port Huron for the evening's contest. Despite missing seven games while up with Quad City of the SPHL, Coash still leads the team in goals and points. He ended up with just one assist in eight games with the Storm, although inconsistent ice time didn't help those numbers. Delaney picked up a goal and an assist in four games with Quad City, but in just seventeen games is third on the Rockers with ten goals, so his return is much welcomed as well. To make room on the roster, Motor City had to release forward George Holt. He played in five games going scoreless, but since he is from the area, he could be a candidate to return at some point if more roster upheaval returns and a spot opens. 

Saturday night's game in Port Huron was an opportunity for Motor City to at least earn the split of the weekend series but it wasn't to be. It was a low scoring affair with both Babin and Tynan back in net, and each facing 36 shots on the night. The Prowlers again struck first when Liam Freeborn, who clinched the win Friday, picked up his second goal of the weekend and team leading 14th of the season at 12:08. The Rockers gave up their second shorthanded goal of the weekend at 9:08 of the second when Evan Foley bested Babin for the unassisted goal, his sixth of the season. Motor City got one back on the powerplay at 10:57 of the third when the newly returned TJ Delaney picked up his eleventh of the season from Coash and Pavel Svintsov. But much like on Friday, the Rockers were unable to even the game up and fell 2-1 to the Prowlers. 

So Motor City has now lost four of their last five games after the winless weekend and their hold on second place in the Empire is down to a precarious two points over Danbury after the Hat Tricks split their weekend set with Binghamton. The Rockers now sit nineteen points behind first place Binghamton and I know there is still half a season left, but I just can't see the Black Bears giving up their current stranglehold on the division. It would take a monumental collapse from a team that may just be the best in the FPHL. They're neck and neck with Columbus right now. In my humble opinion, Motor City's focus should be on maintaining their position in second place to secure home ice in what seems an inevitable first round playoff series against Danbury. They'll have three home games this coming weekend to try to help build that lead back up with the Blue Ridge Bobcats from Wytheville coming to town for three games Friday-Sunday. Wytheville may sit last in the entire league with only 21 points, but they have beaten the Rockers twice, once in regulation and once in overtime, so they cannot be taken lightly and have been playing better as of late. Still, with regulars like Suffredini, Rotondi, Coash and Delaney back, there are nine points sitting there for Motor City to grab at home and these stand as very important games to get their mojo back. Friday's game will be a 7:35 face-off. Saturday night starts at 6:05 and is also Autism Awareness Night with the team wearing special jerseys to be auctioned off online afterwards, and Sunday will be a 2:05 puck drop at Big Boy Arena. 

Burt

ROCK STAR OF THE WEEK: This was a week where there was no clear cut candidate as far as a player having a multi-goal weekend or a goalie standing on his head in a victory so it took a deeper dive to come up with my Rock Star Of The Week. I'm going to go with Cameron Burt who picked up two assists in the game Friday. You have to appreciate what Burt has been able to do. At 36, he hasn't played North American professional hockey since 2014-15 and his last season in Slovakia was 2019. Yes, he is still heavily involved in the sport as a player development coach, but to step right in at the minor pro level again and play as solidly as he has is not easy and a testament to why his pro career took him as far as the AHL. He now has three assists in three games for the Rockers after his two point weekend.       

ROCKERS ON RECALL: With Coash and Delaney back from Quad City, defenseman Nick Magill-Diaz is the only Rocker currently remaining in the SPHL. He has now played in six games for the Pensacola Ice Flyers where he has one assist.   


Suffredini, Rotondi and Burt Return, Three Players Released

ROSTER MOVES 1-18-24

On the eve of their weekend series with the rival Port Huron Prowlers, the Motor City Rockers are making some roster moves. Or as I am coining it, the Motor City Roster Shuffle. Let me explain. The Rockers are just getting back from four straight road games in New York and Virginia. They have a few players on their roster that, due to other obligations, basically are only available for the games in Michigan. So when these longer road trips come up in the schedule, Motor City, due to this year's roster limits, is forced to release these players and sign fill-in players for the away games. So when you see key players like a Dante Suffredini released, keep that in mind.

Speaking of Suffredini, he is one of the three players Motor City brought back today. The Rockers are back in Michigan for the rest of January, and have a home heavy schedule the rest of the season. Dante skated in all 56 games for the Rockers last season but so far this season has only been able to play half of their 26 games. He has still managed two goals and nine assists in thirteen games and is such a solid defenseman for the team, his return is huge. Also back is Ryan Rotondi. He re-joined the team on three separate occasions last season and this marks his second stint with the Rockers this season. He has played in twelve games so far, picking up two assists, and brings the versatility of being able to play both forward and defense . Last but not least, defenseman Cam Burt returns. Burt played in the New Year's Eve game against Port Huron, picking up one assist and showing why his hockey career took him as far as the AHL, one step below the NHL. He's another local guy that can help when the team is at home. 

Departing are the three forwards that were signed for last weekend's road games in Wytheville, Virginia. John Horn played in both games in Wytheville, picking up an assist. Jared Mullen was signed but did not skate in either game. And James Kakos did see action in both games, but did not pick up any points.

The Rockers and the returning trio host the Port Huron Prowlers Friday night at Big Boy Arena. Face-off is set for 7:30 PM.


Motor City Rockers - Week in Review - 1/8/24 to 1/14/24

Week in Review 1-8

The Motor City Rockers are in a tough spot as of late. Few teams in the FPHL have seen their roster turned over as much as the Rockers have in the last month. I've covered prior moves here in my recaps, and this week's recap is filled with a bunch more roster changes, most just temporary out of necessity. Motor City traveled to Wytheville, Virginia this past weekend for the first time to play the Blue Ridge Bobcats, and with multiple players currently in the SPHL, more injured or suspended and others either unable to travel or having left the team for other job opportunities, the roster is in a constant state of flux. And a road trip like this calls for replacements that aren't going to stick around past the weekend for the most part, with the team now returning to Michigan for the rest of the month of January. So keep that in mind as I recap the past week in Motor City Rockers' hockey. The patchwork roster that took the ice in Wytheville is going to look much different again when the team returns to Fraser.

So let's take a look at the changes to the roster this past week. Forward TJ Sneath was handed a one game suspension from the league at the start of the week, meaning he would miss the first night in Virginia. On Wednesday the 10th, the team announced a trade, sending the vaunted "future considerations" to the Columbus River Dragons in exchange for the rights to Lane King. King, who can play both forward and defense, is currently in the SPHL with the Macon Mayhem after playing in fourteen games for Columbus this season, picking up thirteen assists. Last season in 51 games for the River Dragons, King scored ten goals and added 38 assists, while the season before playing for Watertown he had his best season as a pro, again scoring ten goals, but racking up an amazing 61 assists in 54 games. He also is no stranger to the penalty box in his five year pro career, so he would add even more toughness to the Motor City roster if he returns from Macon.

Wednesday also saw the SPHL come calling for another of Motor City's top scorers as the Quad City Storm, who already have Scott Coash, signed TJ Delaney to a standard player contract. Delaney has been a god-send for the Rockers, scoring ten goals in seventeen games, so his scoring will be missed, but as always I wish any player who gets an opportunity in a better and/or higher league the best of luck. That same day, the Rockers also cleared some roster spots by releasing three players who had just been signed to help with last week's road trip in New York. Defenseman Erik Oganezov was released for the second time this season. He has now skated in eight games for the Rockers, picking up two assists. He played in the games in Watertown and Binghamton last weekend, going scoreless. Forward Cole Therrien was released after playing in his first two professional games, going scoreless. And goaltender Blake Scott was released after backing up Ricardo Gonzalez in the two games in New York without seeing any action. With Trevor Babin suspended, it was good to have the veteran goalie there as insurance, but with Babin eligible to return for the second game in Wytheville, it didn't make sense to have Scott make the long road trip just to be released before Saturday's game when Babin could return.    

The rest of the week's moves were announced on Friday afternoon before the Rockers took to the ice against the Bobcats. Forward Roman Gaudet was place on the fifteen day IR, another blow to Motor City's depth at forward, as well as their core of returning players from last season. Jonathan Juliano had his PTO extended by another four games on the same day. And defenseman DeVon Fields was brought right back a week after he had been released. Now to the new faces as a trio of forwards were signed.  Virginia native John Horn joined the Rockers to make his professional debut at the age of 26. Horn spent the past five seasons playing ACHA hockey for Lawrence Tech. Jared Mullen, another Virginia native, was also signed. At 37, Mullen was also set to make his professional debut as Motor City looked for local players in Virginia to help over the weekend. Michigan native James Kakos was also brought in. Kakos is no stranger to The Fed, he's played for eight different teams in the league since 2015, but only ever in a fill-in role as he's only skated in 32 games prior to joining the Rockers.      

With so many new faces and such a jumbled roster, it's hard to be too critical about what happened on the ice Friday night in Wytheville. Much like their last game in Binghamton, the Rockers struck early on the powerplay when Declan Conway picked up his twelfth goal of the season at 5:55 from Jamie Milam and Pavel Svintsov. Blue Ridge was able to tie it at 8:51 when Jakub Volf beat Ricardo Gonzalez to make it even after one. Sadly, also like the Binghamton game, the rest of this contest was dominated by the opponent as the Bobcats struck for three goals in the second period and three more in the third for a 7-1 victory. Gonzalez had to stay in the game and take his lumps for a second straight contest, as on this night Motor City's backup goaltender was equipment manager Nick Kaiser, serving the emergency back-up role. It's not a game worth much analysis, the Rockers have been decimated by roster turnover and these things happen. The Bobcats picked up only their fourth regulation time win in the game.

Things were looking up for Saturday, just with the fact both of Motor City's suspended players were eligible to return to the ice. TJ Sneath rejoined the forward corps, while most importantly, Trevor Babin was back between the pipes. The Rockers again struck first when Adam Kuhn scored his third goal of the season just 2:03 in from newly signed John Horn, picking up his first professional point, and Josh Colten. But just like in the last game, Blue Ridge tied it when one of their new additions, Dmytro Babenko, scored his first of the season at 17:14. Motor City opened things up in the second on a pair of goals. First it was Conway picking up his second of the weekend, and thirteenth of the season, on the powerplay at 2:40 from Svintsov and Milam. Then that same pair assisted on former Bobcat Tristen Wells' second of the season at 9:23 to put the Rockers up 3-1. Blue Ridge got one back before the end of the period at 16:48 from Daniel Martin but the Rockers, with Babin huge in net stopping all twelve third period shots, held off the Bobcats and added an empty net goal at 19:27 from Jonathan Juliano for the rousing 4-2 victory. 

If Motor City had the majority of their regular roster, anything less than a weekend sweep in Wytheville would have been disappointing. But given the circumstances, splitting the weekend and coming home with three points was huge as the Rockers were able to maintain, and even increase, their lead over Danbury for second place in the Empire Division after this weekend's games. They now lead the Hat Tricks by five points. Now they have four of their next five games at home, with the only road game just a trip up I-94 for another battle with their rivals in Port Huron. This coming weekend should be can't miss hockey as the Rockers host the Prowlers Friday at Big Boy Arena before the teams play Saturday at McMorran Place. This will be the first time the two teams face each other since the New Year's Eve game that ended with Babin brawling with Dan Chartrand, which resulted in his three game suspension. I'd expect to see the Rockers gain some reinforcements to the roster, and with this batch of home games coming up, they have a real chance to stockpile some much needed points.

Babin - RSOTW

ROCK STAR OF THE WEEK: From a pure points standpoint, there were a number of candidates this week. Declan Conway had two goals and Jamie Milam and Pavel Svintsov each chipped in with three assists this weekend. But the return of Trevor Babin in net cannot be underestimated. Motor City was out-shot 38-22 Saturday as they still had the same make-shift line-up that was blown out 7-1 Friday. But Babin was a steadying force in net stopping 36 shots and helping lead the way to a much needed victory with a very shorthanded roster. His performance on Saturday makes him the easy choice for my Rock Star of the Week.       

ROCKERS ON RECALL: Keeping tabs on the players currently in the SPHL, Scott Coash has now skated in seven games with Quad City but is still stuck on one assist. Scott has proven he can score in the SP before, hopefully he can pop one or more in this week. It didn't take long for his old teammate in Motor City, and new teammate in Quad City, TJ Delaney to make an impact for the Storm. Delaney picked up a goal and an assist in three games this weekend. Congrats TJ! Nick Magill-Diaz was temporarily released, but then quickly re-signed in Pensacola, where he has still played in five games for the Ice Flyers with one assist.   


Motor City Rockers - Week in Review - 1/1/24 to 1/7/24

Week in Review 1-1

The first week of 2024 was anything but quiet for the Motor City Rockers. The first order of business was awaiting a decision from the FPHL on any punishment for the end of game fight involving goalie Trevor Babin in the New Year's Eve game against Port Huron. That came down on Tuesday the 2nd when Babin was suspended by the league for three games. In the announcement, the league's Director of Player Safety Dave Jackson mentions Babin both spearing and taking a violent swing at a Port Huron player's head, but I find it odd nothing is said about the slash at Babin that started the whole thing. I guess that was missing from the video that made it to the league office even though I clearly watched it about ten times on replay on You Tube. Nor was anything done about the Port Huron player who threw a water bottle into the stands, sending water spraying everywhere, behind the penalty box earlier in the game. I guess throwing objects into the stands is acceptable conduct in the Federal Prospects Hockey League. Not to say Babin should have been let off scot-free, but the double standard here is ridiculous. 

With Babin out for three games, Motor City obviously had to make a move to bring in a second goalie to back up Ricardo Gonzalez for their two games this past weekend, and the move most people expected happened on Thursday when last year's back-up goaltender Blake Scott was signed. Scott went 11-5-2 last season for the Rockers with a 3.69 GAA and .898 save percentage and given his familiarity with the team, and the fact he's been playing locally in the MIHL, it was an easy choice to bring him back. 

A lot more happened Thursday than just the Scott signing though as the Rockers made some more significant changes to their roster. A trio of defensemen were released starting with Cam Burt who was more of an emergency fill-in and not expected to stay long term. Burt did pick up an assist in his lone game as a Rocker on New Year's Eve and was solid on the blueline with a +3. Ryan Rotondi was also let go but this is nothing new for the forward/defenseman and Motor City. Rotondi was re-signed three separate times last year, he's from the area and we likely have not seen the last of him. He's played in twelve games so far this year, picking up two assists, and is one of those unsung players that just solidly does his job. Most surprising was the release of Dante Suffredini, but this is one of those FPHL transactions that comes with an asterisk. Observant fans would have noticed, Suffredini has not been making the long, out of state road trips this season. The Rockers were about to head to New York and this is more of a roster maneuver to have as many active players as possible for the away games. Keep in mind, these guys are playing for the love of the game first, certainly not the paychecks in the Fed. Some have other obligations, including job opportunities, that limit their ability to travel, so that's part of why you see these type of roster moves. It's just the reality of Single A hockey, expect Suffredini back when Motor City has more games in their home state. 

The releases were necessary as the Rockers welcomed one new face and a returning player. New to the squad is George Holt. The 32 year old from Rochester Hills is listed as a forward but can also play defense. Holt is no stranger to the FPHL, he's skated in 151 career games in the league, most of them coming in Carolina where he last played in 2021-22 with the Thunderbirds. Holt has scored 26 goals with 35 assists for 61 career points in The Fed. Returning is Russian defenseman Erik Oganezov who previously played in six games for Motor City picking up two assists earlier this season. 

Before Friday evening's game in Watertown, the Rockers announced two more transactions as defenseman DeVon Fields was released to make room for forward Cole Therrien. Fields played in three games in this, his second stint with the Rockers, picking up a beauty of an assist in the New Year's Eve blowout of Port Huron. He's another local guy and I've been impressed with his play both last season and this one, he will likely head back to the Gaylord Snow of the MIHL for now. Therrien is a 25 year old forward who will be making his professional debut after skating four seasons in the ACHA with Lawrence Tech University. The 25 year old from Massachusetts scored 34 goals and added 50 assists for 84 points in 90 career ACHA games, so it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the pro game.      

Speaking of the games, now we get to the two that took place in New York this weekend starting with Friday's contest in Watertown against the Wolves. This was the third trip of the season for the Rockers to Watertown, with the Wolves taking the first game 3-2 in overtime back on November 22nd and winning again 5-2 on December 3rd, so Motor City had plenty of motivation to get in the win column in this one. With Babin serving the first game of his suspension, it was Ricardo Gonzalez in net for Motor City while Josh Rosenzweig got the start for Watertown. After a scoreless first period, the two teams combined for five goals in the second. After Joshua Tomasi put Watertown up 1-0 at 2:34, the Rockers evened things up at 10:25 on TJ Sneath's eighth of the season from Declan Conway and Pavel Svintsov, back in the lineup after missing some time due to an injury. Watertown then went up two on goals from Chiwetin Blacksmith and Chase DiBari but Motor City got one back on the powerplay before the period ended when Adam Kuhn picked up his second goal to make it 3-2 after two. The powerplay then tied it at 15:21 of the third as Kuhn and Josh Colten assisted on TJ Delaney's tenth of the season. That sent things to overtime where Jamie Milam was the hero, picking up a rebound on his initial shot and burying it for his fifth goal of the year at 2:35 of the extra session for the 4-3 victory. Gonzalez stopped 44 shots in the win for Motor City.

Now the next night in Binghamton was going to be tough even if the Rockers were at full strength. The Black Bears came into the game as the top team in the FPHL with 55 points and they simply don't lose often at home. Motor City came into the game missing its number one goaltender and scorer in Babin and Scott Coash, as well as other key pieces like Danny Vanderwiel and Nick Magill-Diaz. Gonzalez was again in net for the Rockers, earning the start after his performance in Watertown, while it was Connor McAnanama between the pipes for Binghamton. Things started off looking good when Motor City capitalized on another powerplay just 1:41 into the game when Josh Colten picked up his sixth goal of the year from Adam Kuhn and Pavel Svintsov for the quick 1-0 lead. The Black Bears struck twice before the end of the first on goals from Nikita Ivashkin and Jake Schultz to take the 2-1 lead into the first intermission. It was all downhill from there as Binghamton exploded for four second period goals and added on two more in the third for the 8-1 blowout victory. Schultz and Connor Smith each netted two, while the other goal scorers were Tyson Kirkby, Andrew Logar and Dakota Bohn. The Black Bears fired 64 shots in the direction of Gonzalez while Motor City was only able to muster 22 shots on net. Just a rough night for the rookie goalie and the team as a whole. One you forget about and move on from.   

So the Rockers come away from the New York trip with just two of a possible six points. Binghamton now holds a fifteen point lead over second place Motor City, but more concerning, Danbury is now nipping at the Rockers' heels, just four points behind the team from Fraser for second place in the Empire Division, although Motor City has played two less games. Yes, the loss Saturday was disappointing, but Motor City is also down a lot of key players and have a lot of new faces in the lineup. They faced a well oiled machine in Binghamton. The good news is the Rockers still get four more shots at the Black Bears, including three games at home at Big Boy Arena when they'll hopefully have more regulars back in the lineup.

This week, Motor City prepares for their first trip to Wytheville, Virginia to face the Blue Ridge Bobcats for a two game set. The Bobcats spoiled Motor City's home opener back in October with a come from behind 5-4 overtime win, although the Rockers did get revenge the next night with a 4-3 win. This will be a critical two games for Motor City. Wytheville currently sits in last place not only in the Continental Division, but in the entire league with just fifteen points. They've only won three games in regulation, with one overtime win and one shootout win to their credit. The Rockers need to go into the new arena in Virginia and take care of business and come back home with six points. Babin would be eligible to return for the second game of the weekend so we will see if he is back in net Saturday to help make a weekend sweep a reality. Of equal importance, Binghamton and Danbury will play each other twice in Connecticut while Motor City is in Wytheville, so if the Rockers handle the Bobcats, they will be gaining points on at least one of the teams they are battling with in the division standings.  

ROCK STAR OF THE WEEK: There wasn't as obvious a choice this week as last week, when a four goal game sealed it for Declan Conway. But my Rock Star of the Week goes to forward Adam Kuhn who picked up a goal and an assist Friday in Watertown, including that crucial goal in the second that cut the deficit back to one heading into the third, and then assisted on the only Motor City goal Saturday in Binghamton for a three point weekend.

ROCKERS ON RECALL: Keeping tabs on the Motor City players currently skating in other leagues, Scott Coash has now played in four games with Quad City of the SPHL where he has one assist. No change in his point total from last week. Nick Magill-Diaz is still with Pensacola of the FPHL, where he has one assist in five games now. Still no word on a return for either player.              


Motor City Rockers - Week in Review - 12/25/23 to 12/31/23

Week in Review 12-25

It was a busy week both on and off the ice for the Motor City Rockers after the Christmas break. There were considerable changes to the roster, with a couple key players moving, do I even say "up", to the SPHL amongst the moves. Then there was a three game weekend set with their I-94 rivals, the Port Huron Prowlers to bring an end to the 2023 portion of the FPHL schedule. 

The roster shuffling started on Thursday when defenseman Nick Magill-Diaz signed a standard player contract with the Pensacola Ice Flyers of the Southern Professional Hockey League. Magill-Diaz is no stranger to the SPHL, having played 24 games there last season between the now defunct Vermilion County franchise and the Quad City Storm. His presence will be missed on the Motor City blueline where he had four goals and eight assists in fourteen games this season, but I'm always happy to see guys move up the rungs of the hockey ladder. Apparently stating a guy is "called up" to the SPHL is a sensitive term amongst FPHL brass, but that's a benefit of being unofficial. I'll call it for what it is. The Fed and SP may be on similar "Single A" ground, but the SPHL is looked at as a step up for these players. Magill-Diaz skated in two games this weekend for Pensacola, picking up an assist. To offset the loss to the defense corp, Motor City signed Detroit native DeVon Fields on Friday. Fields saw action in five games for the Rockers last season, officially being credited with three assists, even though he was never given credit for a goal he scored on the road while wearing a different number from his regular one. He has been playing in the Michigan Independence Hockey League, a local, six team semi-pro junket that boasts a number of former FPHL players, including former Rockers Tim Perks and Blake Scott. The MIHL has become somewhat of a feeder league for the Michigan based Fed teams when players are needed in a pinch. I think Fields is a solid player at the Single A level, it's good to see him back in a Rockers uniform.    

Fields 12-31-23

Fields was in uniform when Motor City traveled to McMorran Place for the first game of the weekend against Port Huron Friday night. Trailing 1-0 after one, the Rockers turned things around in the second thanks to a short-handed goal from Jonathan Juliano as he fired one over the shoulder of Port Huron goaltender Ian Wallace at 5:54. Then at 9:42, Motor City took the lead as leading scorer Scott Coash poked in a rebound off a shot from TJ Delaney for his 14th goal of the season. That goal could be Coash's last as a Rocker for awhile, more on that shortly. Motor City took the 2-1 lead into the second intermission and held it for much of the third, but a recurring issue for them this season reared its ugly head when they gave up a late goal in the third as Sam Marit scored at 18:04 to tie things at two. That sent things to overtime, where newly acquired Mitch Jones, a former Plymouth Whaler, absolutely rifled a one-time shot past Trevor Babin, on the powerplay, to win the game for Port Huron 3-2. Motor City still came out of the game with a point, but a disappointing finish nonetheless.        

Saturday was extremely busy off the ice as the Rockers announced a slew of transactions. Jonathan Juliano had his PTO extended for another four games as Motor City continues to have to play the roster limit game, but two long time Rockers left the team for the immediate future. As I alluded to earlier, Scott Coash signed a standard player contract with the Quad City Storm of the SPHL where he played in two games this weekend, picking up an assist. It was just a matter of time for Coash who scored forty goals for Motor City last season and leads them in both goals and points this season. Scott spent a full season in the SPHL in 2021-22 with Macon, there is no question he can succeed in that league, so it will be interesting to see if he makes a return to Motor City, but congrats and good luck to him with the Storm. In a surprising move, forward Derek Makimaa was released. Makimaa finished tied for fifth in points on the team last season and his 22 goals was third on the team. In eighteen games with the Rockers this season, Makimaa had two goals and ten assists. It sounds like this was more based on personal reasons for Makimaa, best of luck to him as well.

With a couple players gone, that meant reinforcements were needed and again, Motor City turned to the vast talent pool locally. Southgate native Adam Kuhn was signed to help out at the forward position. At 34, Kuhn last played professionally in 2011-12 when he skated in 35 games for Pensacola of the SPHL, scoring six goals to go along with seven assists. Kuhn is another player that has been in the MIHL, playing for the Gaylord Snow, the same time DeVon Fields was with. Signed to help out on defense was another Detroit native, 36 year old Cameron Burt. Between 2011 and 2015, Burt saw significant time in the ECHL with Ontario and Florida and his play twice earned him stints in the AHL, one step away from the NHL, with Manchester and Rochester. In twelve career AHL games, Burt scored a goal and added six assists. He took his talents overseas after that and currently works as a player development coach and mentor for Total Package Hockey (TPH) Detroit.

Burt 12-31-23

After all the moves Saturday, there was another game to be played at McMorran Place between the two Michigan rivals. Ricardo Gonzalez got the start in net this time for the Rockers and surrendered the first goal of the game when Liam Freeborn bested him at 7:54. But the newly signed Kuhn knotted things up at 10:59 on a wrist shot that beat Ian Wallace. Freeborn put the Prowlers back in front on the powerplay at 14:30 but Motor City got a powerplay goal of their own at 18:03 when Roman Gaudet deflected a pass from Dante Suffredini past Wallace to even things up at two after one. After an early goal just nineteen seconds into the second from Port Huron's Mitch Jones, the Rockers took control of the game on the scoreboard. Port Huron's Alex Johnson was on the unfortunate end of a bad deflection as a face-off win bounced off his stick and past Wallace to make it a 3-3 game at 7:10. TJ Delaney was credited for the goal as he was the closest Rocker to the play. The game stayed tied heading into the third but it was Motor City who would prevail thanks to a powerplay goal from TJ Sneath at 8:50 and an insurance goal from Delaney at 15:01, also on the powerplay for the 5-3 final. Gonzalez was solid in net for the Rockers, stopping 33 shots and giving Babin the night off to prepare for the third and final game of the weekend set Sunday back in Fraser.

Rockers-PH scrum 12-31-23

It was a quick turnaround for both teams with the Sunday afternoon New Year's Eve contest slated for a 2:05 start. Babin was back in net for Motor City after resting Saturday and Port Huron countered with Makar Sokolov in net after Wallace had played the first two games of the weekend. That turned out to be to Motor City's benefit as Sokolov was frankly not up to the task and pulled in the second period after giving up five goals on nineteen shots. The Rockers went to the locker room up 3-1 after one thanks to goals from Gaudet, Jamie Milam and Declan Conway. They really started to pour it on in the second as TJ Sneath and Jonathan Juliano sent Sokolov to the bench, after he took a trip down the tunnel to the locker rooms smashing his stick in frustration, putting Motor City in command 5-1. Putting Wallace back in net did little to stem the tide as Conway scored his second of the night on a beautiful unassisted wrap-around goal at 5:11. The Prowlers were able to get two back before the end of the second to make it 6-3 heading into the third but Motor City put it out of reach thanks to Conway who popped in two more, one on the powerplay, for a four goal night and an 8-3 lead. That's eleven goals on the season now for Conway. Austin Fetterly got one back for the Prowlers before the end of the game but it was all academic, the Rockers cruised to the 8-4 victory and took seven out of a possible nine points on the weekend.

Rockers goal 12-31-23

Now I can't talk about Sunday's game without mentioning the ending where all hell nearly broke loose. Given this was the third game in three nights, it was a given this game would be feisty and it lived up to it with a lot of yapping, stick work, scrums and a couple fights. But with 3.5 seconds left, with Port Huron applying pressure on Babin, a Prowler slashed at Babin who retaliated with his stick then jumped on him before a number of other players piled on and what resulted from the scrum was a full-on punch-out between Babin and Port Huron's Dan Chartrand who exchanged blows in a hell of a fight. Once that was separated, fans of each team seated behind the benches were exchanging insults, with some Prowlers players shouting up into the stands, but thankfully it did not escalate beyond that. It was destined to happen at some point during the weekend when rivals face each other three straight days, but lead official Paul Jene did not help the situation by calling an atrocious game. The very definition of a Ref Show. Memo to Paul Jene, we pay money to come watch hockey, not you trying to show how in charge you are on the ice. He even tossed at least one fan for good measure. In all, there were 211 penalty minutes called in the game, including a whopping twelve ten-minute misconducts. Babin faces the possibility of a suspension considering he was given match penalties for spearing and slashing, in addition to his fighting major at the end of the game. All of this in front of a season high 1,377 fans at Big Boy Arena made for a raucous atmosphere, a great Old Time Hockey throwback game.

With the big weekend, the Rockers now sit at 41 points on the season and still in second place in the Empire Division, fourteen points behind first place Binghamton and eight points ahead of third place Danbury. Motor City heads to New York this coming weekend for another battle with the Watertown Wolves Friday and then their first meeting of the year with the first place Black Bears in Binghamton Saturday. We will have to see if Babin will be available for that big show down in Binghamton.    

Conway - Rock Star of the week

ROCK STAR OF THE WEEK: There certainly are a number of candidates to take the honors this week. Jonathan Juliano, TJ Delaney, TJ Sneath and Roman Gaudet all had two goals over the weekend, but the obvious choice is Declan Conway with his four goal game Sunday afternoon. Conway also added an assist in Saturday's win for a five point weekend overall. With their leading goal scorer gone to the SPHL, Conway stepped up in a big way with the four goals and is now the leading active Motor City goal scorer with eleven on the season, as well as the active leader in points with twenty.       

NEW SIGNINGS MAKE AN IMPACT: As has been the case all season, when the Rockers have had to bring in new faces, they have paid instant dividends. Adam Kuhn scored a goal Saturday in his first game, DeVon Fields had a gorgeous assist in Sunday's win and was solid all weekend in his first three games back, as was Cameron Burt in his debut Sunday, where he was a +3, steady on the blueline and picked up an assist as well.   


GAME RECAP: Rockers vs. Elmira River Sharks 12/22/23

Elmira 12-22-23

The streak is over. After suffering five straight losses, the Motor City Rockers finally got back in the win column Friday night as they exploded for eight goals, including a four goal night for the game's number one star, in an 8-4 victory over the Elmira River Sharks in front of 876 fans at Big Boy Arena.

This was the fifth meeting of the season between these two squads, but the first in Fraser as Elmira hosted the previous four. Motor City won three of those four contests with the other game a shootout loss, so they had managed eleven of a possible twelve points out of those games, giving them good reason to think this was the night they could snap their losing streak. They didn't waste any time either, jumping out to a 2-0 lead just three minutes into the game on goals from TJ Delaney at 1:42 and Declan Conway at the three minute mark. This was their first time seeing new Elmira goaltender Sammy Bernard, and he was less then impressive. Delaney made it 3-0 on the powerplay at 8:50 for his second of the night, then Josh Colten got in on the fun at 17:25, also on the powerplay, for his fourth goal of the season and the Rockers were cruising up 4-0 after one. Trevor Babin stopped all fourteen shots he faced in the period for Motor City.

With Babin in net, and a four goal cushion at home, you'd think the game was in hand, but the Rockers have had a habit of blowing leads during this losing streak and with forty minutes still to play, anything was possible. Elmira made them pay on a powerplay of their own just 41 seconds into the second when Cody Rodgers absolutely lasered a shot past Babin to make it 4-1. Elmira then had a golden opportunity to get back in the game on a bad boarding penalty by Motor City's Tristen Wells at 5:46 that earned him a five minute major and a game misconduct. It got worse when Derek Makimaa went off for a cross-check at 7:29 giving the River Sharks a two-man advantage. It would be Rodgers again who would capitalize, blasting it past Babin at 7:40 for his second of the night and just like that it was 4-2. But the hero of the night regained the three goal lead for Motor City as Delaney got the hat trick at 14:41, putting the Rockers back in control up 5-2 after two.

Elmira struck early again on the powerplay to open the third when freshly re-signed Cameron Yarwood struck just 35 seconds in to make it 5-3. But Delaney again had an answer with his fourth of the night, and seventh of the season, at 1:57 to get the lead back up to three goals. Scott Coash then popped in his team leading twelfth of the season at 4:55 to make it 7-3. Rodgers again struck on the powerplay for a hat trick of his own at 8:11 but Elmira would get no closer as Motor City added an empty net goal from Nick Magill-Diaz at 17:09 for the 8-4 final.

The eight goals are a season high for the Rockers. In addition to the big four goal night from Delaney, a number of other players peppered the scoresheet. The recently returned Cade Lambdin picked up three assists, Jamie Milam, Dante Suffredini, Jonathan Juliano and Derek Makimaa all had two assists and Declan Conway and Josh Colten each had a goal and an assist. These two teams are right back at it tonight for the final game before the Christmas break. Face-off at Big Boy Arena is set for 6:05 PM. For Motor City, it's a chance to sweep the weekend and take six big points, righting the ship after a tough stretch.