Posts Tagged ‘Mentor Ice Breakers’

Railfanning and Minor League Hockey

November 29, 2020

Few people in Northeast Ohio have probably heard of the Mentor Ice Breakers, a minor league hockey franchise in Mentor that shut down recently after playing just two seasons.

The Ice Breakers were in the Federal Prospects Hockey League and played their games in the small, but intimate Mentor Civic Center.

Ed Ribinskas, Marty Surdyk and I attended a pair of Ice Breaker games in March 2019.

Both games faced off on a Sunday afternoon and afterwards we went out to dinner at a local restaurant before heading home.

I’ll always associate watching the Ice Breakers play with railfanning before the games.

Ed and I went out before the first game, getting as far east as Albion, Pennsylvania, after chasing a train there from Conneaut on the former Bessemer & Lake Erie.

Marty joined us for some railfanning before the second game on a day that featured dramatic winter weather even though it was officially spring.

It had rained and then snowed overnight, leaving a coating of white on nearly everything.

We caught quite a few trains that day on the CSX Erie West Subdivision and the NS Lake Erie District, including a work train with a caboose.

Ice Breakers owner Dan Moon told the News-Herald that he and business partner Chris Brynarski lost more than $500,000 operating the team during its two-year existence.

Although they thought about suspending operations for the 2020-2021 season as two other teams in the league have done, after looking into it they decided it wasn’t financially feasible.

Ed and his wife, Ursula, attended several Ice Breakers games including what turned out to be the final one played before the COVID-19 pandemic hit last March and shut down the league.

“I’m glad we had the chance to see a few games while they existed,” he wrote in an email. “I know Ursula and myself enjoyed it very much.

“[I] never would have realized the game I saw with Marty back in March would be the last game the team would play.”

In the top image, CSX westbound intermodal train Q009 kicks up some snow as it passes through a winter wonderland near Unionville on March 31, 2019.

In the middle image, an eastbound CSX train led by a pair of Union Pacific units passes the Nickel Plate Road Berkshire-type steam locomotive on static display in Conneaut on March 10, 2019.

In the bottom image, the Ice Breakers celebrate after scoring the winning goal in a game that featured an improbable ending.

With a minute left in the game and the Danville (Illinois) Dashers holding a 7-5 lead, it looked like the home team would lose yet again.

But the Dashers committed two minor penalties and the Ice Breakers scored twice, including the game-tying goal with 4.5 seconds left to play.

In overtime, Mentor scored on a breakaway at the 1:04 mark to win in sudden death.

I don’t know if any of the Ice Breakers made or will ever make a National Hockey League roster, but they provided inexpensive entertainment on the two Sunday afternoons that I saw them play.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders