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Fayetteville Marksmen

2022-23 Fayetteville Marksmen Season Preview

2022-23 Fayetteville Marksmen Season Preview

FAYETTEVILLE, NC. – The days prior to COVID-19 are likely a blur for many. But in the days before everything changed forever in the spring of 2020, Fayetteville was among the SPHL’s top teams. The Marksmen last season under new head coach Cory Melkert showed that the pre-COVID year was no blip on the radar, being consistently among the league’s top teams in multiple areas before ultimately being edged in the postseason by Quad City. Now, with a good part of that proven talent poised to return, another step forward is being envisioned in “The All-American City.”

Last season in review

Record & Playoff Appearance: 40-14-2, finishing fourth in the regular season standings and lost in the first round of the President’s Cup Playoffs to Quad City. 

Season Summary: Offensively, Fayetteville was stout with nine players having 35 points or more. That, combined with goalies Brent Moran and Jake Pawloski consistently put the Marksmen among the top half of the league and in position for home ice in the first round of the President’s Cup Playoffs.

A strong start to the season was followed up in December with six of nine wins. Being in good position within the standings going into January is key in the SPHL, and the case was no different for the Marksmen, who also made a lot of hay against two frequent opponents – Macon and Roanoke. Fayetteville was undefeated against the Mayhem and going 8-4 against the rival Rail Yard Dawgs, going 8-4, winning the final seven meetings. Good teams win games they are supposed to win, and beating two teams that finished eighth or worse greatly helped the Marksmen. Also helping the cause was a late-January to early-February run of nine wins in a row. While that was the longest streak in the season, it helped follow up a quick start to the season as Fayetteville did what any team wants to do – find itself in position to content for a regular-season title in March.


Leading Scorer: Taylor Best was a pest to opposing game plans, having 51 points on 22 goals and 19 assists. His plus-minus of 29 rated sixth overall in the SPHL, one behind that of one of his teammates, defenseman Jarrett Kup who tied for fourth in the same category with 32. Kup wasn’t the only defensemen leading the two-way efforts as Donald Olivieri’s 46 points were second on the team with 35-plus point seasons also coming from Drake Glover, Taylor McCloy and Shane Bednard.

Offseason Moves

Key Acquisitions:

  • During the offseason, the Marksmen upgraded their scoring lines even more by bringing in Connor Graham, who did enough in a combined 22 games with Vermilion County and Knoxville to earn 13 points, effort that helped him play in 24 games with three ECHL teams – Utah, Iowa and Norfolk. With the obvious x-factor being the specter of him ending up in an ECHL camp or not either before or during the season, Graham should significantly impact what the Marksmen do in the attack zone.
  • Tyler Barrow, who got a cup of coffee, so to speak last season in three games, was also brought back in the offseason. In a time of attrition that comes to rosters through player moves or injuries, the Marksmen are taking steps to maintain depth.
  • Drayson Pears is also on track to bring muscle on the defensive end, bringing a background that includes two seasons and 60 games with Alaska-Anchorage.

Key Losses:

Bryan Moore brought a brusing mentality last year, using his years of hockey experience to set a physical tone and as shown by his 138 penalty minutes, delighted Fayetteville fans, as well. In the event that the Marksmen go into the season minus both Moore and Olivieri, there’ll be a need for someone to set that physical tone.

2022-23 Schedule Breakdown

The Fayetteville-Roanoke rivalry resumes in a big way out of the game with the Marksmen schedule calling for four matchups against the Railyard Dawgs in their first six games. If you are into revenge games, keep an eye on the schedule starting late-December. Not only does Quad City visit on Dec 31, but the Marksmen go to Illinois for a three-game set Jan. 6-8 in a rematch of last year’s postseason series. Another northern team comes calling in late January with the defending President’s Cup Champion Peoria at the Crown Coliseum Jan. 27-29. Between that and a two-game series Feb. 3-4 at Evansville, a lot should be known about how this team stacks up against the league’s other top teams.

Top Storylines For 2022-23

In the final weeks of the season, Fayetteville was right there in position to win a regular-season title. That’s obviously, what any team wants, but the fourth-place finish plus first-round exit likely left a bad taste in Fayetteville’s mouth and should serve as a driving point this season.

The case can be made that Fayetteville had one of the league’s top goalie tandems last season in Brent Moran and Jake Pawloski with both ranking among the league’s top-five qualified goalies with GAAs of less than 2.36. Sure, this team has lots of guys on the ice with scoring ability, but this goalie play, regardless of who ends up in net, continuing as it did last year may be the difference between Fayetteville being good and great.

Prediction Sure To Go Right 

Pawloski and Moran boasted arguably the league’s top goalie tandem last year. This season, the Marksmen will get their defensive pairs and goalies to mesh again, giving them one of the league’s top goalie tandems again, regardless of who suits up in net.

Prediction Sure To Go Wrong 

Last year, Fayetteville got a clean sweep of the season series with Macon. The margin of goals for and against won’t be anywhere near as wide, but Fayetteville will do the same again win/loss wise.

Download the Field Pass Hockey app from the iTunes or Google Play stores or follow @FieldPassHockey on Twitter for the latest news on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL throughout the 2023 season!

    Brad Harrison covers the Macon Mayhem for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @FPHMayhem.

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