Icy Challenges: Hometown Advantage Could Salvage Southern Oregon Spartan’s Season
The 2018-19 junior league ice hockey season is well under way and though it’s been a bit of a shaky opening for the Southern Oregon Spartans, their outlook remains optimistic.
“It’s been challenging,” admits assistant coach, Matt Reed. Six straight losses during November away games against Canadian teams, Edson Aeros and Hinton Wildcats, and Washington State’s Bellingham Blazers dropped them to fourth in the Northwest ranking.
“The Blazers were the first place team in our division back in November and we were playing third,” he says. “The losses, along with some injuries, set us back a bit.”
Head Coach Ken Hoey, who played for Kent State and the All-American League, and Reed agree that correct preparation and buying into systems will be key in the latter half of the season, along with the majority of remaining games being played on Spartan ice at Medford’s The Rrrink Ice Arena.
Spartan fans have earned the label “loud,” particularly because they psyche opposing teams with their notorious, homemade Spartan “snorkles;” a PVC pipe with elbows at each end that they yell through, which Reed explains “really gets into the other team’s head.”
Junior league hockey season runs until March before playoffs, with the team playing 52 matches.
“It’s a developmental league and a feeder league to college,” shares Reed, who was a collegiate player for University of Arizona. “We provide a lobby for these players to come in from all over the country, and the world, and be seen by NCAA Division I all the way down to NCAA Division III sets, helping them get to the next level and take hockey as far as they can.”
Spartan owners Forest Sexton, Troy Irving and John Hansen, help provide funding for billet families to host players from out of town, some from as far away as Turkey, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
“Our Team Captain, Axel Löw from Stockholm, might be in the top three best defensemen in the WSHL (Western States Hockey League),” Reed says, adding that returning Spartan player and WSHL veteran, Miraslov Smid from Czech Republic, is aiming to play pro hockey in Europe.
December 18–21 Spartans will play in Las Vegas at the 18th Annual Western States Shootout, facing the Cheyenne Stampede from Wyoming, Colorado’s Steamboat Wranglers and the Valencia Flyers out of California, teams not typically found in their circuit. The event is a youth showcase attended by many college scouts.
“Our goal is to help these kids get college deals,” Reed says. “Plus it’s the most exciting part of the season right before the Christmas break, playing three teams from other divisions we won’t see again.”
January 11—12 and February 22—24, Spartan rivals—Seattle Totems—arrive in Medford to do battle at The Rrrink.
“We hate them as much as they hate us,” Reed says. “Every time we play them it’s a very close game. They’re hard-hitting and there are fights, but the harder southern Oregon plays defensively, the more chance we’ll have scoring offensively.”
Spartans face the Blazers on home ice at The Rrrink January 25—27 and again February 8—10 on a final 3-game road trip to Bellingham, Washington. The remainder of the season will be played at home.
“With the proper dedication to work ethics, the systems, the heart, and will to get better every single day, we’ll see success,” says Reed.
Southern Oregon Spartans vs. Seattle Totems
7:30 pm, January 10 and 11
The Rrrink, 1349 Center Drive, Medford