Depth, experience highlight the Rail Yard Dawgs roster

‘My goal is to have these guys the absolute most prepared as possible for their success.’

ROANOKE, Va. – The Rail Yard Dawgs have proven it’s not how you start but how you finish and for them that was the SPHL Championship Series back in May. As they return to the ice this season they have a roster full of experience and depth.

“You can’t really base this season off last season but we’re just trying to carry some of that momentum into this season,” said Rail Yard Dawgs forward Mac Jansen. “Try and get back to what we were doing and where we were last year.”

While the team lost a few team captains and vets to retirement, like Travis Armstrong, Jeff Jones and Brant Sherwood, they have roughly ten guys that called the Berglund Center home last year.

Rail Yard Dawgs practice days before their season-opener on October 21 (WSLS)

“The guys that are moving on in Armstrong and Jones that have been here for so long have really helped build the identity here from the ground up,” said Rail Yard Dawgs head coach Dan Bremner. “They put their stamp on this. But now is passing the torch and an opportunity for that next group of guys to really put their own fingerprints on the organization, on the year, on everything.”

“We have a really strong roster,” said Josh Nenadal. “This is I think my third or fourth camp here and this is probably the deepest roster we’ve had going into camp. For guys like myself, Mac [Jansen], [C.J.] Stubbs, [Nick] Devito, [Nick] Ford, [Brady] Heppner, those guys--we have to step up and lead by example and show them the way but at the end of the day we’re all hockey players. We know how to make plays.”

“A guy like Travis Armstrong is irreplaceable. He’s the Rail Yard Dawg, the original Rail Yard Dawg,” Jansen said. “You can’t fill shoes like that but I just try to lead by example.”

The 2021-2022 featured a rocky start and an eventual mid-season 9-game losing streak. But that’s one aspect the Dawgs hope to avoid--starting Friday night.

“My goal is to have these guys the absolute most prepared as possible for their success and a rededication to that time,” Bremner said.

Dan Bremner during Rail Yard Dawgs media day (WSLS)

“It was a roller coaster of a season but it was the Dawgs way for sure because we never stopped working throughout the whole thing,” said Nick Ford. “I think that’s something we have to stick to--our work, our passion. I think coming back this year, we’re going to prove in the regular season and going into the playoffs that we’re a team to be reckoned with.”

“We’re really sharp this year, a lot more system focused this year,” said defenseman Matt O’Dea.

The Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs will open its season on Friday night at the Berglund Center with a 7 p.m. puck drop with Fayetteville.

About the Author:

Eric is no stranger to the Roanoke Valley. He is a Roanoke native and proud graduate of William Fleming High School.