KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Knoxville Ice Bears begin their 2019-20 season on Friday, Oct. 18, against the Evansville (Ind.) Thunderbolts. Here are six things you need to know about the Ice Bears:
Top rookies returns
The Knoxville Ice Bears return two of the top 10 rookies in the Southern Professional Hockey league from a year ago. Center Scott Cuthrell was tied for third among league rookies with a team-leading 44 points in just 47 games. He scored 12 goals and grabbed 32 assists.
Left wing Stanislay Dzakhov totaled 31 points including 11 goals and 20 assists in 33 games.
New assistant coach
Former Ice Bears defenseman Spencer Metcalfe will be an assistant coach for the 2019-20 season. It is the first coaching position for Metcalfe.
“We’re excited to have Spencer join the hockey operations staff and continue to work hard for this organization,” coach Jeff Carr said of his former player. “He showed a strong interest in coaching halfway through last season – while he was on (injured reserve) – and we immediately had a strong chemistry on the bench.”
Wiener dog races
Arguably the most attended games of the year, the Wiener dog races sell out fast. This year’s races are Friday, Nov. 29, against Roanoke and Saturday, Feb. 8, against Peoria. Other promotional nights include: Harry Potter night, Nov. 22; Game of Thrones night, Dec. 21; Disney night, Jan. 17; and Star Wars night, Feb. 15.
World of talent
The Ice Bears team is a geographical mix with players from across the globe. Three players are from Canada, goalies Michael Santaguida and Cody Porter as well as center Anthony McVeigh.
Dzakhov is from Russia and defenseman Charlie Granath is from Sweden.
There are also three California players on the Knoxville team: forwards Lonnie Clary, Bryce Nielsen and Stefan Brucato.
Toast of the SPHL
The Knoxville Ice Bears have won more SPHL regular season and playoff titles than any other team. The Ice Bears have won the William B. Coffey Trophy, given to the regular season champion, four times. The Peoria Rivermen also have four regular season titles.
The Ice Bears have also won the Presidents Trophy, given to the SPHL playoff champion, four times. The last time Knoxville hoisted the cup was in 2015.
The Ice Bears were among the original teams when the SPHL was formed in 2004 but were already two years into their existence by then. The Ice Bears were a part of the Atlantic Coast Hockey League in 2002 and the South East Hockey League in 2003. Only two other original members remain in the league: Fayetteville (N.C.) Marksmen and Huntsville (Ala.) Havoc.