For hockey fans, this time of the year is filled with excitement. And for FireAntz hockey fans, the action might be happening on the ice, but it keeps getting hotter as they go out to support their home team.
Over the years the Fayetteville FireAntz have made a mark on the community, and their fans keep coming back year after year for good times and great hockey. This year promises to be no exception.
The Fayetteville FireAntz are hitting the ice for the 2010 season with a relatively inexperienced team; however, the community can still expect great things from its home team, according to Kevin McNaught, the president/ general manager of the organization.
“We lost some veteran players last year, so we had to make more changes than we normally would,” said McNaught. “We only have three veterans returning. We are not rebuilding, we are reloading.”
The FireAntz are currently seventh in the league with three wins and seven losses.
Jason Fleming, public relations director for the team, added, “We’ve had a lot of games on the road and that takes a toll.”
Kevin “We’ve only had two home games because of the events at the Crown forcing us to play on the road. Sunday’s win was pretty big.
New to the FireAntz this year are 10 players, seven of whom have just finished their college careers. BeefIng up the goal is Adam Avramenko, from Strathmore, Alberta.
Fleming said Avramenko is coming on strong in the goal and shows a lot of promise.
He will be joined on the ice by six new forwards: Jeff Borrows, Ryan Salvis, Kyle Warneke, Nathaniel Brooks, Cody Zubko and Anthony Pototschnik.
“We’ve had a lot of talented young forwards,” said Fleming. “Salvis and Zubko have really stepped up early.”
Strengthening the defensive line are: Myles Gomes, Jordan Behler and Joe DeBello. Debello, Zubko and Salvis have some pro hockey experience under their belts.
The FireAntz will look for leadership from their returning bench to whip their young team into shape.
Leading the team this year will be Craig Geerlinks, a defensive player, who was named player/assistant coach and captain for the 2010-2011 season. He is joined by forward Bobby Reed who is the alternate captain and also an assistant coach.
Fan favorite Rob Sich will also return to the lineup. Sich, whose return to the ice was in question when contract negotiations stalled this summer, is in his fourth season with the FireAntz, and has played his heart out on the ice. Named the 2009-2010 and the 2006-2007 Southern Professional Hockey League MVP, he set the SPHL record with 63 goals in a season.
Sich is in good company with teammate Chris Leveille who is returning for his second season with the team. Last year, Leveille, a forward, played in 56 games, scored 19 goals and had 65 assists. He was named to the All SPHL team.
The organization has become a member of the Fayetteville community. The action might take place on the ice, but their hearts are fi rmly in the community. Community support of the team is a partnership that has grown over the years.
“What we do is quality of life,” said McNaught. “We rely on the community to support us so much, so it is easy for us to give back with appearances and having the players in the schools where they can be role models.”
Over the past several years the FireAntz have formed lasting partnerships with community agencies like the Women’s Center and the Cape Fear Valley Blood Donor Center. The organization is also a huge supporter of the military. This week, two of those partnerships will take center ice as the FireAntz host a special military appreciation night and a Blood Donor Center night.
On Friday, Nov. 19, military groups will have the opportunity to purchase tickets for just $5 at the FireAntz offi ce as the FireAntz take on the Louisiana IceGators. On Dec. 4, the team will host military appreciation night.
On Saturday, Nov. 20, the FireAntz will play a second match against the IceGators but the spotlight will turn to the Blood Donor Center. This is the fi rst specialty jersey night of the season. The team will sport jerseys specially designed to support the Blood Donor Center. After the game you are going to want to stick around for an auction of the jerseys, with all proceeds going to the Blood Donor Center.
The following week, the FireAntz are looking forward to hosting what has become an annual event — Thanksgiving Night Hockey!
“This is only the beginning of our season,” said Fleming. “We’ve had two home games and there are 26 games left between now and March. We are really excited about the season. We have the best fan support in the league and we are really going to turn it on for our fans.”
For more information, visit www.fireantzhockey.com.