The final Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs game of 2019 was a reminder that 2020 couldn’t come soon enough for this team.
On New Year’s Eve, the Dawgs held a late lead over Fayetteville before Brett Johnson equalized with less than three minutes to play. Johnson then fed Taylor McCloy for the game-winner in overtime as the Marksmen won it 3-2, forcing the Dawgs to settle for a point.
The calendar flips to a fresh 365 with Roanoke (5-13-4) sitting in last place in the SPHL. The good news for the Dawgs is that in this league, eight of the 10 teams make the playoffs. They’re only three points out of the transfer spot held by Birmingham, and one solid stretch could bolt them past three teams in a hurry.
That quest begins Friday at the Berglund Center, when Roanoke hosts — who else? — the Fayetteville Marksmen (14-3-4).
The home-and-home series to close this week marks the ninth and 10th times the Dawgs and Marksmen have clashed this season. Fayetteville won the first five meetings, but Roanoke has gone 2-0-1 in the past three.
Just a few weeks ago, the Dawgs ranked second in the league in power play success. They’ve fallen all the way to fifth after whiffing on each of their past 26 chances with the extra skater, including twice on Tuesday.
McCloy has been a bane to Roanoke beyond just that New Year’s Eve overtime dagger. In seven appearances against Roanoke, he’s produced six goals and five assists to share the Fayetteville points lead in the series with Luke Stork (five goals, six assists).
Roanoke points leader Colton Wolter has been the team’s most effective player against Fayetteville, contributing four goals and two assists while playing in all eight matchups.
After this weekend, Roanoke will face Fayetteville just once more before the end of February.