Contributing Writer for the Pensacola Ice Flyers
(November 1, 2019) – Two games into this season, the Pensacola Ice Flyers have been challenged by an extended intermission.
The two-week break, which has included a trip to Birmingham last week to practice, improvising with fitness workouts at various gyms, plus film room study sessions, ends with resumption of their schedule Friday night against the Fayetteville Marksmen in Fayetteville, N.C.
Without practice availability at the Pensacola Bay Center, the Ice Flyers (2-0) left Tuesday night to get ice time on Wednesday and Thursday before playing the Marksmen (3-0-1) in back-to-back games.
“It almost seems like we have started (season), but we haven’t started,’’ said Ice Flyers coach Rod Aldoff before his team left on the road trip.
The Bay Center has been booked with back-to-back major events. Last week was the Cirque du Soleil Axel event with its four days of shows through last weekend. This week was Sesame Street Live and Saturday’s art-music show, Stompfest.
“Before the season, we knew the (Bay Center) schedule, so we knew we would have to deal with adjusting,” Aldoff said. “It is what it is. You just move forward and play hockey.”
The Ice Flyers made a set of roster moves this week, including adding a backup goaltender for the weekend. Former Peoria Rivermen goaltender Kyle Rank, now part of the University of West Florida athletic training team, was an emergency backup goalie for the Oct. 18-19 games.
Aldoff said Chase Perry will be in goal Friday and Saturday, then he’s hoping to solidify the position next week.
The bigger challenge has been trying to figure a way to progress in practices and keep players sharp with limited ice time.
“This is a crucial time of the year to be on the ice to be able to go over systems,” he said. “There is so much to cover and training camps are so short, that there is not a whole lot of time to pound a bunch of stuff in to players.
“We have to go over some things and walk through some things. It is a learning process for me as well, because I’ve never gone through a situation like this so early in a season.
“We have to manage our time as best we can to ge the most out of each practice to keep legs in rhythm and get systems done as well.”
The good news is the Bay Center will have its rink conversion ready for Monday and the Ice Flyers will get into a normal routine. Their next home game is Nov. 9 against the Birmingham Bulls. The two teams will play the previous night in Birmingham.
“Next week we can get into a normal routine and that’s the biggest thing,” Aldoff said. “Just to be able to come to the rink every day.. have a practice…film study, some training and doing it again the same way the next day.
“Just getting into the routine is what we have missed so far. You want to get into that coming-to-rink every day mentally.”
After a 10-hour bus trip to Fayetteville, plus two days of practices, Aldoff hopes his team can duplicate the performances that led to a pair of opening weekend wins against Roanoke. The Marksmen lead the standings after two weeks and are one of five teams having played four games.
The Ice Flyers are the only SPHL team entering this weekend with just two games played.
“Our heads can’t be too big,” Aldoff said. “We have to just focus at the task at hand and remember how we were successful on the opening week. And get better.”