ROANOKE, Va. – With roster call-ups and injuries, it can be a challenge for the Rail Yard Dawgs to keep a complete roster throughout the season. But they're relying on some local talent to give them the breakaway opportunity they need to make the playoffs.
Cameron Bakker is a defenseman who signed a contract two weeks ago. The 25 year old is a 2015 graduate of Liberty University, where he made an impact for the Flames as a second-team All-American his senior season.
He netted 28 goals and had 57 assists in 139 games in his college career. But he wasn't sold on the idea of playing after graduating.
"I thought that was kind of it, of the hockey career, I guess," said Bakker.
"But over the summer working with a couple guys who had played professionally, they kind of talked me back into it to really give it a chance."
And that's exactly what the Kenmore, Ontario, native is doing -- making the most of his first professional opportunity with the Dawgs.
"There's always an opportunity. It just depends on how far you want to go for it, you know. Europe is a good option, professional leagues around here, I mean they treat you really well. You just got to get your opportunity and fly with it," Bakker said.
After some shifting in the net at goalie, Roanoke found itself in need of a backup after adding Matt Zenzola. So they turned to Mark Shifflett as an emergency fill-in goalie. He's a hockey enthusiast who grew up here in the Star City, playing in youth and adult leagues. Shifflett said he's not exactly sure how his name came up, but he was happy when the call came.
"Happy to be part of the team for what I am. I support everything I can as far as local hockey from the youth teams all the way up here especially. I think it's wonderful that they even reached out to me, very thankful for it," Shifflett said.
He spent a week with the team before Brad Barone returned from loan to the ECHL, but has a chance to rejoin the team if the same situation would repeat itself.
With local flavor on the team comes added motivation and Coach Dan Bremner says, hopefully, this will help give the team the push they need to finish the season strong.
"A ton of call-ups going through our league East Coast level, and to have local guys obviously you're hoping that sparks a little bit of passion from the fans and community around us," Bremner said.