Just about every Delaware Thunder fan, teammate and coach figured that when Federal Prospects Hockey League leading goal scorer Ryan Marker packed up his skates and departed the ThunderDome mid-season in Harrington, he would be headed upward toward the (pro hockey Class AA equivalent) ECHL or the SPHL.
Instead, the 31-goal scorer left the team for personal reasons, something he did a year ago as a member of the FPHL’s Danville Dashers, according to Thunder Head Coach Charlie Pens, Sr.
Marker, who last summer became the first player to sign on with expansion Delaware, was leading the circuit in goals, and was among the FPHL’s top five with 55 points. His abrupt departure will certainly hinder the already depleted offensive squad that ranks 9th for goals scored in the 10-team FPHL.
Ironically, the Thunder skated against Ryan’s former team in Danville, Illinois without their “magic” Marker and dropped 4-2 and 8-2 decisions this past Friday and Saturday, respectively at David S. Palmer Arena.
The visitors (8-24-0 for 24 points in 5th place in the Eastern Division) were looking good in Friday’s game, leading 2-0 on a 2nd period goal by defenseman Charlie Pens, Jr. (his 3rd) and an early 3rd period tally by forward Thomas Municello (his 4th).
But the Dashers (20-11-0-1-3 for 65 points and 2nd place in the FPHL’s Western Division) scored twice in four minutes to tie the score, 2-2, then took the lead for good on their second power play red light of the period with five and a half minute remaining. With Delaware goalie Aaron Taylor (36 saves) for an extra attacker, Danville sealed the deal with an empty net goal.
On the fight card, Delaware defenseman Anthony Pisano had a brief dustup with Dashers forward Seth Ensor with :31 left in the game – both combatants earned two minute minors and 10-minute misconducts.
The home team exploded the following evening for a 5-0 lead through two periods before new Thunder forward John Doherty celebrated his first game in a Thunder uniform with a pair of goals in a 4:05 span. Danville finished the game with three more goals against backup goalie Sebastian de Massa Carlsson (30 saves, four goals allowed in 40 minutes of work). Starter Taylor was pulled after allowing four goals and making 15 saves in the first 20 minutes.
Saturday’s fisticuffs featured a battle between Pens, Jr. and Dashers forward Levi Armstrong, and another with :05 left in the game pitting Pisano against Danville forward Fred Hein. Both players earned five-minute majors and 10-minute misconducts.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Doherty, who turned 26 this past Sunday, last played for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference’s Miami University from 2012-2014, scoring a goal and three points in 31 games.
The Thunder also signed forward Ryan Kheir, who skated in both games in Danville. Kheir is a 5-foot-7, 170-pound native of Sugar Land, Texas who played for Becker College in Worcester, Massachusetts (one goal, two points in seven games) of the Commonwealth Coast Conference a year ago. He spent 20-16-2018 playing for four different EHL teams, compiling four goals and 22 points in 56 games during that span.
Delaware also released defenseman Gavyn Connell-Helle and traded forward Brandon Contratto to the FPHL’s Battle Creek Rumble Bees for financial considerations. Contratto began the year as the team’s 2nd leading scorer before encountering a slump. He finished 10 goals and 35 points in 27 games for Delaware.
The Thunder hosts the Eastern Division leading Danbury Hat Tricks at the ThunderDome on Friday and Saturday nights, with opening puck drop set for 7:05 p.m. EST both evenings. For ticket information, please call (302) 398-PUCK or visit 168tickets.com.