COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - The past two months have set the stage. Now it’s time for the Columbus River Dragons to finish the job as the FPHL Finals are about set to get underway.
And underway was the word of the day on Wednesday.
Fan restrictions and arena availability issues for the rest of the league’s teams had the Civic Center busy every single weekend in March and April. And that meant the opening weekend of the Ignite Cup finals had the Dragons doing something they haven’t done since February -- going on a road trip. It was time to load up the bus for an away game.
“It could mean something, but at the same time it’s the same 200 feet of ice,” head coach Jerome Bechard said. “You know, ice is ice and it’s just a little bit of travel. This is a good team bonding experience.”
“You know what? It’ll be good to come together right before playoffs,” said team captain Josh Pietrantonio. “It’s nice having all the boys in one spot. Just get to chill out and spend some time, play some cards, hang out, and get ready to play.”
That meant having to shift gears and get organized for a long, long drive. It didn’t faze Pietrantonio at all.
“Yeah, been doing this for quite a few years. It’s just a big game of Jenga at this point.”
Equipment manager Bryan Stoya had the biggest responsibility, which included dealing with the trailer the bus would be pulling all the way to New York state.
“Hopefully do all this the right way possible,” Stoya said. “Stack in all the player bags in front here and then on top up there so it’s easy to unload and when we get there, just everything run smoothly.”
“This becomes kind of second nature to you when you’ve been playing minor league hockey for so long,” said player/coach Jay Croop. “The bus is here, it sounds like it’s running, so we’re going to get going.”
And so they did, right about Noon Eastern to begin the 978 mile trip that should see them pull into Elmira, New York after about 18 hours on the highway.
The River Dragons will have a practice on Thursday and take to the ice for real on Friday, with opening faceoff versus the Elmira Enforcers set for 7:05 pm ET.