ROANOKE – In just their second season in existence, the Rail Yard Dawgs qualified as the eighth and final seed in the SPHL Presidents Cup playoffs. With the new format, the top teams get to select their first-round opponents.
"Hockey hasn't been here for awhile and to bring out so many fans to the games, even the Thursday games it's crazy. That is awesome," said Dawgs fan Natalie Mullins.
Fans flooded the Berglund Center Sunday for the SPHL playoff selection show as the No.1 seed Peoria challenged the No. 8 seed Rail Yard Dawgs to the best-of-three series in the first round.
"Really wasn't worried about who was going to pick us. It's playoffs, it's going to be a hard-fought game no matter what. It's just a logo on a different jersey. We've got to go out there and play our game and play hard and see what happens," said defenseman Nick Shneider.
Roanoke went 1-4-0 against the Rivermen, but closed the regular season with a victory in Illinois, putting them back on the winning track entering the playoffs.
"I feel like it made us playoff ready by the last game there. We figured out the way we need to play to win in Peoria, so we're excited. You have to beat the top team to win a championship and we get the opportunity to do that in round one," said head coach Dan Bremner.
"A lot of our systems are the same. I wasn't surprised, they're a good team so if we are going to play them, I'd rather get it out of the way in the first round," said center Steve Mele.
As Peoria seeks to derail the Dawgs, they'll will have to do so with a stop in Lynchburg. The Dawgs open the series Wednesday at the LaHaye Ice Center at Liberty University. It's a special location for Grant Garvin, who played the last two games with the team, but was officially signed on Monday. Garvin put up 25 goals and 49 assists during his senior season at Liberty.
"I spent four years playing there, so it would be a really special opportunity to do that," said Garvin.
They may technically be the underdogs, but Roanoke is coming in with a full head of steam and doesn’t plan on putting on the brakes during their first playoff push.