ECHL: Frostbites: Icemen Open on Three Game Run

After a resounding win in front of a record crowd to open the 2023-24 season on home ice, the Jacksonville Icemen took off on a two-game trip to close out the month of October. The Icemen traveled to Orlando for the first meeting of the season with the Solar Bears, then made the trip to Estero for a showdown with the Florida Everblades on their home turf. After the two-game tour of Florida, the Icemen are now 3-0 as they head into a busy November. Already a team finding themselves on stable footing early in the season, the Icemen look poised yet again to be a fierce contender in the South. 

We’re only three games into the season, and there’s a lot to break down in the first edition of Icemen: Frostbites.

Scorecard Snapshot:

10/27 @ Orlando Solar Bears – 4-1 W

Matheson Iacopelli and Damien Giroux opened the scoring for the Icemen in the first period, helping Jacksonville set the tone early. Rookie Riley Fiddler-Schultz added a goal in the second, followed by an Anthony Petruzzelli goal in the third. Petruzzelli and Fiddler-Schultz both had a two-point evening in Orlando, with each of them also picking up assists in the Friday showcase. Goaltender Joe Murdaca made 33 stops on 34 shots.

10/28 @ Florida Everblades – 4-3 W

Nine different Icemen skaters hit the scoresheet in the team’s 4-3 win in Estero. Christopher Brown, Anthony Petruzzelli, Matheson Iacopelli, and Garrett Cockerill were the Icemen goal scorers during the Saturday night battle. It was an all-hands-on-deck effort to outwork the defending Kelly Cup Champs, with Icemen goalie Matt Vernon stopping 22 of 25 Everblades shots.

The Fundamentals:

In the rough-and-tumble sport of hockey, the importance of playing a disciplined game can sometimes get lost in the noise. Though only a few games into the season, the Icemen are playing incredibly levelheaded hockey. In the first three games of the year, the Icemen only allowed teams a chance with the man advantage just six times. More importantly, the Icemen haven’t given up any goals during those penalty kill sequences. As a result, the team has a 100% penalty kill effectiveness. They’re not giving teams the opportunity, nor are they letting their opponents capitalize on the chances that do come. Inevitably, this number will take a hit at some point, but it will be interesting to see how long the Icemen can keep running with a perfect PK rate. Conversely, with 13 games on the schedule in November, it will be fascinating to see how long the team can keep playing such a responsible game.

The flip side of special teams play is the powerplay, and although the Icemen have done an excellent job at staying out of the box, they have struggled to take advantage of powerplay chances. In the season opener against the Everblades at home, the team was 2 for 5 on the man advantage. Though certainly they would have liked to see more production, it was still a solid effort that saw results. In Orlando, the Icemen received five opportunities to go to work on special teams but could only score on one. On Everblades home ice, the Icemen went 1 for 6. 

Limiting opposing teams’ time with the extra man is certainly an important part of the equation, but it’s merely one part of it. Being able to draw penalties and give yourself a chance to work with a man advantage is another. Arguably, the most important part, however, is being able to profit from those powerplay moments. The Icemen have been able to hang on for the win with minimal offensive special teams productivity, but if they wish to be deeply competitive, there are definitely some adjustments that need to be made. The Icemen have gotten great looks in high-danger scoring areas with the man advantage, so it’s not a complete powerplay overhaul that needs to occur. With some minor tweaks of how they exploit those high-danger zones, the scoring kinks should work themselves out.

Take Me To Your Leader:

Through the first three games of the season, it’s the captain, Christopher Brown, that leads the team in scoring. His two goals and three assists are good for five points. Brown finds himself tied with rookie forward Riley Fiddler-Schultz, who also has five points, his in the form of one goal and four assists. Fiddler-Schultz is off to a fast start in his first season with the Icemen and is scoring at over a point-and-a-half per-game pace. The rookie’s four assists have all come on the rare powerplay goal and currently have him tied for the top spot league-wide for powerplay assists. 

Icemen netminders Matt Vernon and Joe Murdaca are both amongst the league’s top 10 in goaltending leaders. Murdaca enters the month of November 1-0 and sits third in the league with a .971 save percentage. Rookie Matt Vernon has gotten the extra nod in net to start the season, sporting a 2-0 record. He clocks in at ninth in the league with a save percentage of .915. 

Team scoring leaders:
Christopher Brown – 5
Riley Fiddler-Schultz – 5
Brendan Harris – 3
Anthony Petruzzelli – 3
Matheson Iacopelli – 2

Forwards Dominick Mersch, Michael Turner, and Logan Cockerill, in addition to defensemen Nicolas Savoie, Julian Kislin, and Jacob Panetta, are the only Icemen players still yet to post a point this season.

The Icemen’s jam-packed month of November starts with the team’s annual field trip game on Thursday, November 2nd, at 10:30 a.m.

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis is a freelance hockey reporter covering the ECHL's Jacksonville Icemen for Inside The Rink and the Vancouver Canucks for The Canuck Way. His work has been featured on Hockey of Tomorrow and The Daily Faceoff, and can be found on Twitter/X @FromTheDrewLine.

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