Goalie Jacob Mullen of the Battle Creek Rumble Bees has seen enough of the Carolina Thunderbirds to last him a lifetime.
Mullen, a 24-year-old who was born in Sweden but lives in Idaho, said he hasn’t seen the puck in his sleep as the Thunderbirds peppered him with shots over a three-game series, but it might happen at some point.
"No I haven’t been seeing shots in my sleep,” Mullen said with a smile.
The Thunderbirds rolled to another victory over the Rumble Bees winning 8-2 at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Annex on Saturday night.
It was actually a big improvement for the Rumble Bees from Friday night where they were pummeled 14-1. Mullen got pulled after giving up six goals in the first period in that game, but his replacement, Joel Eisenhower, gave up eight more goals in the romp.
During his three games against the Thunderbirds, Mullen faced an incredible 160 shots. Overall in the three games sweep the Thunderbirds’ offense amassed 216 shots and scored a total of 27 goals.
On Saturday the Thunderbirds improved to 12-1 and won their eighth in a row.
If anybody can give a scouting report on the Thunderbirds and Coach Andre Niec, its Mullen.
“They are definitely a good team and it shows in the standings,” Mullen said about the defending Federal Prospects Hockey League champions. “It’s just a matter of putting it together against them because their good on the power play and are good at killing penalties off.
“Offensively, they all know where to go and move so well without the puck. They open it up with scoring chances and it’s tough to chase them for a whole game.”
Niec said that he likes the way the Thunderbirds are rounding into shape. They had it rather easy against the Rumble Bees, who are an expansion team that fell to 0-15 on the season. It’s the worst record to start a season in the 11-year history of the league.
“We don’t want to humiliate the other team,” Niec said about the 14-1 blowout. “I was just hoping for the game to be over.”
At this point last season the Thunderbirds, who were 48-6 during the regular season, were 10-3 through 13 games.
“I think we are almost there,” Niec said about his third Thunderbirds team that leads the FPHL’s Western Division. “We play Battle Creek two more times next weekend, then we play Elmira so we have to be ready for them. So, trust me, my practices are going to be tough next week as we get prepared.”
Among the newcomers who have made an impact is forward George Holt, who played for the Watertown Wolves last season.
“We’re just going with the flow and building off every game,” Holt said about the hot streak.
Holt said being a part of the defending champions has been great. He was a visitor many times last year playing for the Wolves.
“I’m thrilled to be here and with the coaching staff and the veterans that are here it’s been a lot of fun,” said Holt, who scored in the third period of another lopsided victory on Saturday night. “The community has been warm and receptive. The crowd is always great here.”
On Saturday night the Thunderbirds got two goals from Petr Panacek and Michael Bunn as well as goals from Everett Thompson, Jan Salak, Jan Krivohlavek and Holt. The puck movement wasn’t as suburb as it was in the 14-1 victory, but it was still very good.
Niec doesn’t hide the fact that he’s demanding when it comes to practices, and that’s not about to change.
“It’s a long season and some guys could be in better shape and that’s why I’m going to make sure they are,” Niec said. “We need to get better and it’s a marathon and not a sprint so we have to focus on the long season. I came back (to coach) for one reason, and that’s to win a championship again. I think we are on the way but not there yet.”
So far, so good.
Notes: One of the top newcomers to the Thunderbirds, forward Daniel Martin, has been loaned to the Fayetteville Marksmen of the Southern Professional Hockey League. Martin, who was picked up as a free agent before the season after playing last year with Danville, had six goals and three assists in nine games with the Thunderbirds…. The Thunderbirds’ big promotion on Saturday was a salute to the veterans. President and general manager Jimmy Milliken of the Thunderbirds says it’s an important promotion. The Thunderbirds wore jerseys to honor the veterans and the jerseys were auctioned off as part of a fund-raiser. “It’s a big night so honor the many veterans not only who live around here but the veterans from all over the United States,” Milliken said…. The Thunderbirds will hit the road next weekend travelling to Michigan to take on Battle Creek again on Friday and Saturday nights…. Saturday’s attendance was announced as 2,734.