CHRONICLING ECU & C-USA SPORTS
from the 'ville
March 9, 2006
By Al Myatt
Ice Pirates' first campaign
fires up interest
East Carolina has completed its first
competitive season in — Would you believe? — ice hockey.
The Pirates played pucks pretty well, going
14-7 overall and finishing second in the Blue Ridge Hockey Conference.
One highlight was a 4-2 win over North
Carolina before 675 fans at ECU's home rink, Bladez on Ice (Red Banks Road)
in Greenville, on Jan. 27.
"I don't want to say that was an upset," said
goalie and team president Brent Falcon. "But they (UNC) were a Division II
club team and we're Division III. That really helped us push forward the
rest of the season."
The Ice Pirates are coached by Dr. Wayne Cox,
of Physicians East, who played three years collegiately at St. Mary's in
Halifax, Nova Scotia. Cox was assisted by Todd Carter, a former Junior A
level player in Nova Scotia, and Murdoch Rogers, who has no formal hockey
Mike Ormsby, the team's leading scorer, has
finished his eligibility but Falcon thinks the Pirates will be even better
next season. Ormsby, who is certified as a strength and conditioning
trainer, will move into a coaching role next season.
"We've got about six guys coming in from
community colleges in upstate New York," Falcon said. "We've seen four of
them play and they are good. We've heard from 10 or 12 more recruits from
e-mail. We should have 45 to 50 next year at tryouts and we'll take 21. It
will be a really competitive tryout."
The team gets some financial support from
ECU's department of recreational services and rink time for games at Bladez
is exchanged for admission — $5 for adults and $3 for students with ID. The
team pays for its practice time.
ECU hockey began organizing in October of
2004. Falcon, a junior marketing major with a minor in communications,
handles much of the paper work such as scheduling, correspondence with the
league office and lining up sponsorships.
The ECU hockey team typically plays its home
games on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons, prime times to build a
following, which the Pirates have done, averaging about 450 fans. Some of
ECU's opponents are not as fortunate in their relations with rink ownership.
The Pirates have played some road games in the wee hours of the morning
because that was the only time the ice was available.
The 2005-06 campaign is barely over, but
Falcon's excitement is still going strong.
"I can't wait for next season," he said.
"We've shown that ice hockey is a sport that can thrive in Greenville."
You can check out the team's web site at
O-Line: Front ... and center
The credit given the offensive line is often
inversely proportional to its value. It's said that the only time the guys
up front really get noticed is when the quarterback gets sacked or the backs
have nowhere to run.
One function of the current spring practice is
making sure the O-Line doesn't call too much attention to itself in 2006.
That job belongs specifically to offensive line coach and offensive
Steve Shankweiler, who is in his third term
on the Pirate staff.
Only two players return with starting
experience — tackle Eric Graham, an integral component up front for three
seasons, and walk-on guard Matt Butler — but "Shank" has faced graduation
"It's pretty much the same every year," he
said. "The only thing that changes is the calendar."
Shank's crash course in blocking was mastered
by Guy Whimper last season. Whimper, a tight end who created his mayhem on
the defensive front in high school and when he first arrived at ECU, played
just one season of offensive tackle for the Pirates but is now rated as a
fourth-round NFL draft choice.
Now converted tight end Josh Coffman, who has
added about 50 pounds during a redshirt year to get up to 292, and Terence
Campbell, a redshirt freshman in 2005, are the top candidates to step up
despite limited experience.
The Pirates have been without several players
due to injury. Drew Sutton (ankle) is expected to miss the entire spring.
Senior Lance Neisz (knee) and redshirt freshman Stephen Heis (shoulder) are
not expected to be ready until the third week of drills at the earliest.
But Coach Skip Holtz has expressed relative
confidence in four-fifths of the personnel comprising the offensive front.
"The real question mark right now is center,"
Holtz said at the outset of spring workouts.
That evaluation had not changed the first time
the Pirates put on pads last Saturday.
"We must have put the ball on the ground 10
times in the center-quarterback exchange," bemoaned Holtz.
The Pirates have moved Fred Hicks from the
defensive side to center. Larry Lease and Thomas Wingenbach are also
candidates to do the snapping to James Pinkney this fall.
"We can't let the quarterback carry the load,"
Shankweiler said. "We've got to do things to help him. The best way for a
quarterback to be productive is to have a sound running game and good
And the best way for the offensive line to
develop at the moment is through repetitions in spring practice.
"That's about the only way," Shank said.
"Baptism by fire. Put them in there and let them do it. There's really no
other way to learn."
Everything but the center situation is falling
"I continue to be pleased with the way the top
four have come out and handled their work," Holtz said. "Eric Graham and
Matt Butler have really done some good things so far and that's a credit to
their confidence level. Other than having actual game-day experience at
their respective positions, Josh Coffman and Terence Campbell are very close
to playing at the level we expect."
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