YOU PLAY WITH FIRE AND YOU WILL GET BURNEDThe Elite Ants prepare for a 2009/2010 AIHL season
November 4th 2009, Zrink - Glastonbury, CT
2009-2010 FireAnts Elites Team preview.
The inaugural 2008-2009 AIHL season saw the Hartford Fire Ants step up and continue their growth as a franchise into one of the most respected teams on and off of the rink. The Fire Ants lost 13 games by one or two goals in 2007-2008 letting many late leads slip away. Last year the Ants turned on the offense and were one of the hottest teams in the second half.
The ants went 11-3 in the second half to finish at .500 and make the playoffs for the first time as an Elite/Pro Franchise. The season was filled with many great moments. The Ants were the first team to beat the Savage Wolves, took the Brawlers to two classic overtime games, and played in the historic first ever game for the Suffolk sharks. The Fire Ants started their own game night radio show, packed the Zrink for every home game and expanded their youth program to 70 players. The team had several players in the top twenty in the league in scoring most of the season and had a player finish in top ten in assists with 40. The FireAnts boasted 8 players who scored double digit goals, a feat that few, if any AIHL teams could match in 2008-2009.
The Ants went into the playoffs against the powerful 495íers and were dismissed in two games. As much of a success that last season was, the Ants were disappointed at the results and look to come into 2009-2010 and go deep in the league playoffs.
Last season the Ants were hit by injuries. Co-Captain Jim Miller (broken ankle), Net-minder Jason Kalish (knee), and Tyler Meyers (blood disorder) missed significant time in the beginning of the season and the Ants got off to a 3-9 start. What may have been if the team was healthy all season?
Unfortunately, despite all the hard work, the Ants have been hit with the injury bug again to start the 2009-2010 season.
Forward Mark Miller, youngest of the Miller triumvirate, is out indefinitely. Mark shattered his femur in the playoffs against Long Island last season and needed screws to repair the bone damage. He also tore his MCL,ACL, and PCL on the same play and has just gotten back into therapy. The Ants will miss the 30 goals he scored at the elite/pro level over the last three seasons.
Lisa Giovanelli, the only female elite skater in the AIHL and anchor of the Ants defense for the past three seasons is also out indefinitely. After leading the Womens Team USA to its third gold medal (and her second as Captain), Lisa had surgery to repair her patella and tendon and will be out until the new year. Every one of her goals in 2008-2009 were game tying or game winning.
The biggest loss may be Co-Captain Matt Zuba. All-time FireAnts leader in every statistical category, Matt may be out indefinitely. After discovering in the summer that he had played most of last season with a fractured vertebrae, Matt is now being treated for a sports hernia. The focus of the Ants deadly power play and scoring leader (59 points), Zubaís playmaking ability (40 assists) will be dearly missed if he is unable to play. Jim Miller and Matt are the heart of the Ants team and young players will be asked to replace his veteran leadership and fill the big minutes that he normally plays.
Key departures from the Fire Ants from last year are Defenseman Dom Russo and goaltender Jim Mckay. Dom joined the team mid season and was a huge factor in the Ants playoff drive. Dom scored over 40 points in just 20 games and his ability will be missed. Mckay was back for his second run with the Ants and played solid between the pipes earning 6 of the Ants 14 wins. The Ants wish them both luck in their endeavors.
2009-2010 Elite Forwards
Jim Miller Age 30 Hometown: Hamden, CT
Matt Zuba Age 30 Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Tyler DaSilva Age 19 Hometown: Waterbury, CT
Nick Tomczyk Age 19 Hometown: New Britain, CT
Tyler Meyers Age 23 Hometown: Mount Sinai, NY
Dan Christ Age 20 Hometown: Hopewell Junction, NY
Tim Hong Age 40 Hometown: Glastonbury, CT
Mark Miller Age 22 Hometown: Hamden, CT
The Fire Ants potent offense returns all of its players from 2008-2009 with Mark on IR. The top 4 of Miller, Zuba, Dasilva, and Meyers combined for 87 goals last season. Dasilva emerged as an up and coming star with 29 goals, 15 of which came in the final 6 games after he was paired on a line with Zuba. Jim Miller (21 goals) and new assistant captain Tyler Meyers (18) both managed great seasons while missing time with injuries. They will both be counted on to contribute even more this season. Tim Hong began last season as minors captain but by seasonís end his leadership, speed, and ability made him a full time elite player and his offense and defense will only improve this season. Speedy Nick Tomcyzk will be paired with Jim Miller this season and will definitely improve on his totals from his rookie season. Big time free agent pick up was Dan Christ. Dan has a quick release and is an all around talent. He scored 19 goals for the struggling Surge last season and will be counted on this season.
2009-2010 Elite Defensemen
Bill Miller Age 27 Hometown: Hamden, CT
Keith Snyder Age 30 Hometown: Kensington, CT
Vinny Guarino Age 30 Hometown: Chesire, CT
Ryan Lair Age 27 Hometown: Wethersfield, CT
Lisa Giovanelli Age 29 Hometown: West Haven, CT
Harvey Jennings Age 18 Hometown: Meriden, CT
Jon Corona Age28 Hometown: Wethersfield, CT
Eric Newell Age 26 Hometown: Schererville, IN
The Fire Ants return all their defensemen from last season except Dom Russo. Dom will be a huge loss on the back end as will the injury to Lisa Giovanelli. Snyder will again be counted on for net presence on the powerplay and solid defense. Vinny Guarino filled out his game last season while playing with Russo and scored 10 goals, he will be counted on again. Billy Miller and Ryan Lair are both solid defensemen who saw third pairing minutes last season. They both will be counted on to step up and play lots of minutes this season. Lair is probably the teams best penalty killer. Chicago-native Eric Newell will be counted on to fill Domís role as the teams quarterback and newcomers Harvey Jennings and Jon Corona will be asked to play solid defense in their first AIHL season.
2009-2010 Elite Goaltending
Jason Kalish Age25 Hometown: Stamford, CT
Greg Marshall Age 23 Hometown: South Windsor, CT
Brian Miltz Age 32 Hometown: Vernon, CT
Kalish enters his fourth season as the Ants number 1 elite goalie. Last season saw his statistics improve for a second straight year. He enters the season healthy for the first time in an Ants uniform and will be counted on to carry the team. Greg Marshall, full of ability, will replace Jim Mckay as the Ants second Elite goalie. He is big, quick and looks to keep the legacy of solid Ants goaltending alive for the future. Veteran Brian Miltz returns to the Ants. He won the only games for the Ants in their first season four years ago and will be ready to step in this season as needed.
2009-2010 Season Outlook
The Ants begin the season Nov 7th at the Feasterville Jamboree. They will play six games against the previously unknown Colonial division. They follow up with their home opener November 14th against rival Boston Swamp Rats. The Ants will have two more games prior to Jan 2010 and then will hit the meat of their schedule for this season. Hopefully all injuries will be healed by then and the Ants can build on last years 14 wins and playoff appearance. Joe Furnari and the rest of the coaching staff will ensure that the Ants play with fire the entire season. See ya on the rink!