Marksmen find new identity in 2018-2019 season

Marksmen Find New Identity In 2018-2019 Season

By James Jackson

January 2, 2019

‘Trust the Process’ is a phrase that was made famous by former Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Sam Hinkie. Even though the Fayetteville Marksmen aren't a basketball team, or play in Philadelphia, the quote still applies.

The simplified version of ‘Trust the Process’ is doing what needed to be done to ensure the long-term success of the team. Marksmen Owner/CEO Chuck Norris did just that at the conclusion of the 2017-2018 SPHL season. After finishing last in the league last season, it was safe to say the Marksmen weren’t where they needed to be in their inaugural season.

Norris made the decision to start fresh for the 2018-2019 season, only bringing back seven players from the inaugural season. Travis Jeke, Max Cook, Jake Hauswirth, Tyler Palmer, Darren McCormick, Shane Bennett and Jamie Hill were all returning players once the puck dropped on the season opener Oct. 19th. Hauswirth, Cook, Jeke and Palmer weren’t on the initial roster for training camp, as they were all on ECHL rosters/camps.

With more than half the team gone, there were thirteen spots left on the Marksmen roster that were up for grabs. Norris and newly appointed Head Coach Jesse Kallechy made the decision to sign a team of thirteen rookies and seven veterans. The young Marksmen team found success in their season opener against the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs and showed a lot of promise early in the season.

As the season progressed, the young Marksmen team had to go through their own share of trials and tribulations. They ended the nation’s longest regulation win streak after beating the Peoria Rivermen 5-2, proving they can hang with the big boys in the league. However, the start of December was one to forget for the Marksmen. Having dropped six games in a row, the Marksmen were in a dark place up to the Christmas break. Head Coach Jesse Kallechy wanted the Marksmen to have the best record after the Christmas break, and they lived up to their coaches promise. Entering the New Year with a three game win streak, the Marksmen are a completely different team. Playing arguably their best hockey so far, the Marksmen are coming off a big game where they played and beat the Rail Yard Dawgs in front of 5,444 people in the Crown Coliseum. By fitting over 5,000 people in their home venue, the Marksmen are making Hockey in North Carolina Great Again.

Rookie Goaltender Dillon Kelley was named SPHL Warrior Player of the Week. Kelley has been playing the best hockey of his professional career thus far with a .945 SV% and recording the first shutout in team history and his career.

“I think we came in as a team full of rookies who didn’t know what to expect and were learning what it takes to be a pro.” Kelley said to Under Review about his teams growth. “We’ve gone through our fair shares of peaks and valleys in the first half. Now we are a team that knows its identity and what it takes to be successful on a consistent basis.”

Kelley shared his thoughts on how he’s grown as a player under the Marksmen banner.

“Over the course of the season so far, I’ve learned what it takes to be a pro and a starter. You play a lot more games than you do in college. The biggest thing for me is making sure I’m doing the right things away from the rink to assure my body feels its best so I can play my best.”

Marksmen Captain Jake Hauswirth has spent the last three seasons in the All-American City. In his five seasons in the SPHL, Hauswirth has grown into a leader. With the "C" sown on his jersey this season, he's had the task of leading the young team into battle every game.

"We've come a long way from the start of the year." Hauswirth said about his teams growth throughout the year. "Everyday we focus on trusting the system and pounding the rock. It's all a process and if we continue to focus on those details, we will be a great hockey team" 

The Marksmen have beaten some of the best teams in the league, such as the Peoria Rivermen and Macon Mayhem. With their next three games being against the Pensacola Ice Flyers and Rail Yard Dawgs, it’s a strong possibility that the Marksmen could extend their win streak to six games.

‘Trust the Process’...for the Marksmen, they did just that. Doing what needed to be done to ensure the future success of the team is exactly what the Marksmen organization did. With a current record of 10-11-3, the Marksmen are miles ahead of where they finished the season last year. Ending last season with a 12-38-6 record, the Marksmen need just three more victories to have a better record than their inaugural season. The Marksmen motto is “Fear the Fox” and with the way the Marksmen are playing, they deserved to be feared every time they hit the ice.