By Alex Kyrias, NAHL
Despite their record, there was a silver lining to last year’s inaugural Port Huron Fighting Falcons season. Namely, the way the team responded in the second half of the year when head coach Bill Warren took the reins. What Warren inherited was a team that had won just one game in its first 28 games. “I actually felt like the situation I came into was a good situation because there was a lot of room for improvement. It also gave us the opportunity to make some player personnel decisions right away, so we unloaded a lot of the older veteran guys and replaced them with some younger talent,” said Warren. “We knew we could get a good look at them to get an idea if they fit in the puzzle for the 2011-12 season.”
Once that happened, a remarkable thing started to occur for the Fighting Falcons. They started to compete and started to win some games. The biggest win was perhaps during Warren’s debut as head coach back on January 7th in a home game against the eventual Robertson Cup Finalist, Michigan Warriors. A goal with less than three minutes remaining in the game gave the Fighting Falcons a dramatic 5-4 win over their rivals from the West. That’s when the culture changed in Port Huron. They started to become better, more cohesive and pay attention to more details. The Fighting Falcons would win five of their total six games under Warren during the second half of the season, which also had six games where the team lost in overtime or a shootout.
One of the things that needed immediate addressing over the summer in preparation for the 2011-12 season was the team defense. Last season Port Huron gave up the most goals in the league. “It was priority #1 for us in the off-season. It doesn’t matter what league or level you are playing in, you have to be able to defend your net,” said Warren.
So moving into the 2011-12 season, Warren backed up his statement by addressing the goaltending position first. Returning to the team is Peter Megariotis, who was the #4 overall draft pick in the 2010 NAHL Entry Draft. He started the season with Fresno, but was traded to Port Huron and Warren feels very fortunate to have him back in net. “He came in and did an excellent job for us, especially towards the end of the season,” said Warren. Megariotis didn’t allow more than three goals in a game during his last eight appearances, really giving himself and the Fighting Falcons confidence that he is the right choice heading into this season.
Max Milosek will be the other goalie for the Fighting Falcons. Milosek, 18, played 10 games in the NAHL last season as a 17-year-old and then led the Honeybaked Midget Major 18U team to the National Championships. “I feel like we have a great 1-2 punch in net with Peter and Max and both are capable are handling the rigors of an NAHL season.”
So with the goaltending position settled, Warren then took aim at players who possessed exceptional skill with the ability to also put the puck in the net. “We felt like with the players we identified to return, combined with the players we tendered and drafted, we addressed our need for offense,” said Warren. The Fighting Falcons get a major lift by the return of veteran forward Adam Frank. Out of the 65 players that played in a game for Port Huron last season, Frank had the distinction of being the only one to play in all 58 regular season games. He registered 30 points, led the team in assists and is more than battle tested and will help provide some positive experience and reinforcement to the younger players.
Ryan Teal, a veteran defenseman, returns as team captain along the blueline. Nico Sierra is a returning forward that played well, particularly at the end of last season and Logan Lemirande is another veteran who stuck out the entire season with Port Huron, including scoring two of their six game-winning goals. Warren singled out Alex Globke and Bowling Green recruit Brett D’Andrea as rookies who have looked good in training camp thus far.
The news is good for the Fighting Falcons as they have Warren returning behind the bench, solid goaltending and players that want to improve and go in the right direction. Now the question is, can they forget about last season and put together one of the more remarkable turnaround stories the NAHL has seen in a long time.
Next up in the NAHL’s 28 teams in 28 days series, the Springfield Jr. Blues.