Rockers News

PLAYOFF PREVIEW: First Round - Motor City Rockers vs. Columbus River Dragons

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April is here and that means playoff hockey has arrived. In Detroit, the Red Wings are getting better and will surely be back there soon under the leadership of Steve Yzerman, but the other professional hockey team in town, the Motor City Rockers of the FPHL, are preparing for their first ever playoff series after a successful inaugural season. Their opponent will be the Columbus River Dragons, and that's Columbus, Georgia, not Ohio.  For those new to the team and league deciding to check out the playoff action, after all this is the only pro sports team in metro Detroit heading to the playoffs right now, and for those fans who have been there all season, here is a little primer for this First Round Continental Division matchup.

The Rockers and River Dragons faced each other five times during the regular season. Motor City made the trek down to Georgia back in early January, being shutout in both games by goaltender Breandan Colgan, who led the Fed in shutouts with seven on the season. That was in the middle of the Rockers worst losing streak of the season which reached five games. Things were much different come March when the River Dragons visited Fraser for a three game set. Trevor Babin flipped the script and shut Columbus out 5-0 on March 10th. The River Dragons rebounded with a 5-2 win the next night, but in the final game of the weekend series, Motor City prevailed in a tight 2-1 contest that had all the feel of a playoff matchup. So the five game sampling was fairly even in the win column, although Columbus outscored Motor City 13-9 in the five games. An indicator that this best-of-three series should be very evenly matched.

Columbus ended the season at 40-11-5 for 116 points, good for second place in the Continental Division, and the third best record overall in the ten team league. But it was a bitter ending for the River Dragons as they lost their grip on first place in the final game of the regular season, losing 4-3 in a shootout to division winner Carolina, who ended up one point better than Columbus. Offensively, the River Dragons are much like Motor City in that they spread the offense around. Their leading goal scorer and point producer on the season was forward Jacob Kelly, who finished with 39 goals and 72 points. Also watch out for Alex Storjohann who netted 28 goals, and a trio of players who just missed the twenty goal mark, Jay Croop who had nineteen, and both Cody Wickline and Thomas Aldworth who finished with eighteen goals apiece. In all, Columbus boasts twelve players who scored ten goals or more, so they spread the responsibility around, the mark of a deep team at this level.    

Defensively, Columbus is led by Lane King who put up 48 points this season while going a +19, while Paul Fregeau, Josh Labelle and Michael Greco are other stalwarts on the blueline. If you're looking for who might drop the gloves, or stir things up, look no further than Greco who ended up third in the league with 224 penalty minutes this season. Defenseman Edgars Ozolinsh is also no stranger to the penalty box or fighting majors. In goal, it's all about the aforementioned Colgan. He led the league in goals against average at 2.25 and save percentage at .922, while accumulating a record of 22-6-3 in net. Motor City must figure him out to have any chance in this series.

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The first year Rockers finished the season with two wins at home over Mississippi and a 32-18-6 record for 97 points, ending up in third place in the Continental and fifth overall in the league. They were by far the best of the FPHL's three expansion teams this season, credit to GM Nick Field and head coach Gordie Brown for building such a competitive team, filled with Michigan born players. Motor City also comes into the playoffs having won fourteen of their final twenty games, peaking at what is the right time of the season. Offensively the Rockers are led by forty goal scorer Scott Coash, also the team leader in points with 72. Three other teammates hit the twenty goal mark for Motor City this year, Coash's linemate Declan Conway finished with 27, Derek Makimaa added 22 and Tommy Cardinal hit twenty on the nose. Defensemen Josh Colten and Dante Suffredini are also huge cogs in the offensive machine, with 34 and 36 assists respectively. And don't overlook forward Brad Reitter, who finished third in the team in scoring with 47 points on twelve goals and 35 assists. 

In net, it's all about Trevor Babin. He finished just below Colgan, in third, in save percentage at .915, leading Motor City with a 20-12-4 record and a 3.15 goals against average. If the Rockers are to make some noise in the playoffs, Babin will have to be a star every night, and he usually is. If grit is your game, look no further than forward Cade Lambdin. He may be the smallest guy in a Rockers uniform at 5'6", but Lambdin is an absolute pest, and shot blocking machine, who gets under the skin of every team he faces with his relentless energy and hustle. He's also not afraid to mix it up, unlike many of the guys in this league who talk a big game but run for an official to hide behind when things get real. Although the Rockers are "team tough", with numerous guys willing to stick up for themselves or their teammates if needed, every team needs a policeman and in the Motor City it's big Elias Thompson. Thompson led the Rockers with 138 penalty minutes, and if you need proof of his work, peruse my Instagram for some of his fight clips. The guy will throw with anyone in the league. 

Special teams always play a huge role come playoff time, I expect this series to be no different. Motor City finished second in the league, only behind Binghamton, in power play percentage at .228 while Columbus finished much further down in seventh at .177. The Rockers certainly hope that holds in this series. The penalty kill is another story though as Columbus led the league at .876, while Motor City finished eighth at .786. Something will have to give and this is an area that could just decide the series. 

The playoff action starts Wednesday night at 7PM at Big Boy Arena in Fraser, where all tickets for this first ever Rockers home playoff game are just $10. There is no better time to check out the Motor City Rockers brand of hockey than now. The action switches down to Georgia this weekend for game two Friday night at 7:30 and game three, if necessary, Saturday also at 7:30 at the Columbus Civic Center. The battle for the 2023 Commissioners Cup is about to begin.   


Rockers Playoff Date Announced

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As we head into the final weekend of the FPHL's regular season, the Motor City Rockers have announced information on their first ever home playoff game. We still don't know who the opponent will be, that will be decided this weekend, but we do know it will be either the Carolina Thunderbirds or the Columbus River Dragons. Because the Rockers will be the lower seed, the first game of the three game series will take place in metro Detroit at Big Boy Arena in Fraser, then the next two would be in either Carolina or Columbus.

The Rockers have announced game one will take place this coming Wednesday, April 19th, at 7:00 PM. Tickets are on sale now and all general admission tickets for this game will be $10. The Rockers are also running a special ticket bundle that includes the final regular season home game this Saturday at 6:00 PM against Mississippi, as well as the playoff game on Wednesday for $20 per bundle. Saturday's regular season finale will also be Fan Appreciation Night, featuring prizes such as merchandise and tickets, as well as a skate with the players after the game.

In addition, the Rockers are also taking deposits for 2023/24 season tickets. Deposits are $25 per seat. We are very happy to hear the team is returning for a second season of FPHL hockey. Crowds have been growing at Big Boy Arena as the season has progressed, I have personally heard from former fans of the Motor City Mechanics who used to play out of this arena, who have just recently discovered the Rockers. There is still work to do to get the team out in front of metro Detroit area hockey fans and families looking for an entertaining, but cost-effective, night out, and they will have a full offseason to do just that. I plan a deeper dive into this subject during the offseason.

In the meantime, please get out and support metro Detroit's only professional sports team that is heading to the playoffs this season. You can contact Motor City's Ticket Sales Consultant Sam Ferris at [email protected] or at 313-380-6375, or visit the team's website at mcrockershockey.com for tickets to the remaining two regular season home games and the first playoff game.      

 


Rockers Sign Ricardo Gonzalez, Release Taylor Cutting

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As the 2022/23 FPHL regular season winds down to its final weeks, teams have been busy tweaking their rosters before the playoffs. Motor City has been quiet so far, but that changed today with the Rockers making a pair of moves.  

Joining The Rock Show is goaltender Ricardo Gonzalez. The 25 year old Davison, Michigan native just wrapped up his collegiate hockey career with Chatham University, an NCAA Divsion III team in the UCHC based out of Pittsburgh. Gonzalez spent five seasons with the Cougars, appearing in 84 games. During his time there, he put his name in the team record book in numerous goaltending categories including minutes played, saves, wins and shutouts.  His save percentage has always hovered around the .900 mark and he is coming off his best year where he appeared in 23 games with a 12-7-2 record and .912 save percentage. Prior to his time with Chatham University, Gonzalez played in the NA3HL with both Toledo and the Nashville Jr. Predators. He becomes the thirteenth current member of the Rockers to hail from their home state of Michigan, a testament to all the hockey talent that resides in this state. This organization has a knack for finding homegrown players and it has obviously paid off in such a successful inaugural season on the ice. 

With Gonzalez here, the Rockers have also released defenseman/forward Taylor Cutting. Cutting came to the Motor City on February 22nd in a trade from Binghamton for Everett Thompson and didn't see much ice time here, appearing in six games with no points and six penalty minutes. He's a player that has always been known for his toughness, the main reason he was brought in, but with the Rockers rolling on the ice it was hard to find ice time for Cutting and he ends up the odd man out. In a strange twist, Thompson was also released this week by Binghamton, wiping out that trade for both sides. I can't lie, I'd love to see ET make his way back to the Motor City, but not sure if that is in the cards. 

These moves come as Motor City prepares to play their final games of the regular season against I-94 rival Port Huron. They'll be at McMorran Arena tonight before returning home Saturday for a 6PM faceoff at Big Boy Arena.     


Rockers Sign Nick Papandrea and Ryan Rotondi, Release Devon Fields

As the FPHL season heads towards the final month of play, the Motor City Rockers are making moves today with the signing of defensemen Nick Papandrea and Ryan Rotondi. To make room for the new additions to the blueline, the team released Devon Fields on waivers. 

Papandrea comes home to join the Rock Show after spending time with three other FPHL teams this season, as well as a brief stint with the Quad City Storm of the SPHL. The Chesterfield Township native spent time with Carolina, Elmira and Watertown in the Fed this season, playing 23 games total between the three teams with no goals and three assists. Last year Nick spent time with both Quad City and Vermilion County of the SPHL playing in 37 total games, so this is another player joining Motor City with considerable time at what is considered a higher level than The Fed.

Ryan Rotondi returns to the Rockers for the third time this season. The Port Huron native spent the majority of the early part of the season with Motor City, appearing in 24 games, scoring one goal and adding three assists. He also racked up 41 penalty minutes so he is not afraid of the physical part of the game. He was released in early February when Cody Oakes was signed, then brought back a week later before being released again when Nicholas Magill-Diaz returned from his loan to Quad City of the SPHL. 

Fields' run as a Rocker comes to an end after appearing unofficially in five games, tallying three assists. I say unofficially because I know for a fact Fields not only played in another game on February 4th in Elmira, he also scored a goal in that game. I watched the live stream and, for some reason, Fields was wearing number 73, Ryan Rotondi's jersey no less, and scored a goal, but the official scoresheet credited Rotondi with the goal and the FPHL stats are still incorrect. So Devon, if you happen to read this, the official league stats robbed you of your first professional goal, hopefully it gets sorted out. 

These moves come on the eve of a three game home stand this weekend in Fraser for Motor City as they host the top team in the FPHL currently, the Columbus River Dragons at Big Boy Arena.