Motor City Rockers forward Declan Conway fights for positioning in front of the net during the Rockers 5-4 loss to the Port Huron Prowlers on Dec. 9 at Big Boy Arena in Fraser.

Motor City Rockers forward Declan Conway fights for positioning in front of the net during the Rockers 5-4 loss to the Port Huron Prowlers on Dec. 9 at Big Boy Arena in Fraser.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Motor City Rockers return to form in 2023, hold second place in conference

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Metro | Published December 14, 2023

 Motor City Rockers defenseman Jameson Milam goes airborne to get past the Port Huron Prowlers defenders.

Motor City Rockers defenseman Jameson Milam goes airborne to get past the Port Huron Prowlers defenders.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


FRASER — This year, it’s been all about hockey for the Motor City Rockers.

The offseason didn’t include general manager and head coach searches, discussions about whether there was going to be a team or not, or constant cosmetic ideas for inside the arena, but rather fully focused on what was taking place on the ice heading into the Rockers’ second season in the Federal Prospects Hockey League.

“We always joked that we needed players and we needed a printer,” Rockers coach Gordie Brown said. “You needed everything from the beginning whether it was jerseys or every little thing. Now, you’ve gone through the process of the year and you can kind of understand how to get the players that you want, build the culture you want, and get the employees behind the scenes we need to run an organization like this. Heading into the second year, I don’t want to say it’s smoother, but you just learn a lot from the first year that you can incorporate into the second year.”

Brown, in his second season as head coach, witnessed his team clinch third place in the Continental Conference, securing a playoff berth, but two straight losses in the first round would put an end to the Rockers’ inaugural season.

Most coaches in the FPHL tend to see a significant roster turnover for the next season, leaving questions about what the team will look like in the coming year, but the Rockers picked up right where they left off with a stacked lineup of returning veterans.

“We felt really confident coming back, especially with how many returners we have,” defenseman Nicholas Magill-Diaz said. “At this level, you don’t get half of the returners we got back. We got just about everybody with three or four new faces, so we felt very confident. We have high expectations for ourselves.”

The Rockers are currently in second in the Continental Conference to the tune of a 9-7 record this season, with six players having double-digit point totals already this season.

Scott Coash, who led the Rockers in goals (40) and points (72) last season, has a team-high 10 goals and 19 points this season, while forward Brad Reitter, who was third on the team in points with 47, has a team-high 12 assists this year.

Returning forward Declan Conway is building off his 52-point season in 2022, second on the team, with six goals and four assists already, while defenseman Jameson Milam (11 points), defenseman Josh Colten (13 points), and forward Pavel Svintsov (16 points) round out the group.

Svintsov, a first-year player for the Rockers, previously played in the Russian Student Hockey League where he tallied 12 goals and 17 assists last season.

Returning goaltender Trevor Babin has been stellar in net with a 7-4 record and a .930 save percentage this season.

With the majority of the team back and just a pair of new names and faces, Magill-Diaz said it’s been the team’s chemistry that has translated to the success so far.

“Just from last year to this year, we’re a lot more comfortable having those uncomfortable conversations when it comes to people making mistakes or being held accountable for each other,” Magill-Diaz said. “It just makes it that much easier.”

Chemistry has always been a strength of the Rockers, and look no further than their success last season in just their first year together as a group.

The Rockers’ locker room is a tight-knit group, and the sense of care and respect is a feeling that Brown said the Rockers deliver from top to bottom in the organization.

“I think what it comes down to is that we’re pretty honest,” Brown said. “We tell them what the expectations are and we’re not lying to them. This is the expectation, and we have those conversations with the players, and if you don’t believe myself or Nick Field, the GM, this is how we do it, and if you don’t want to do it, we’re not for you. I believe the players have our backs on that.”

The Rockers jumped out to a 9-3 record this season before dropping four straight, holding leads in three of the four matchups.

“Our issue is we get up, we get a lead, and then we stop playing,” Brown said. “We stop doing what we did to get the lead, and it’s some habits I got to work on with the guys to create better habits for the guys to get through 60 minutes of hockey.”

The Rockers have battled injuries and illnesses the past couple of weeks, but the Rockers were looking to rebound with a three-game homestand against the Carolina Thunderbirds (Dec. 15), which occurred after press time, and the Elmira River Sharks (Dec. 22 and 23).

With nearly three quarters of the season still left to play, there’s plenty of time for the Rockers to get back on track before the start of the playoffs.

“Really, we just need to stay positive,” defenseman T.J. Delaney said. “With all our success at the beginning of the season, I feel like we didn’t face too much adversity. With guys going down with injuries and us losing four straight, we’re facing that adversity now. Are we going to crumble or are we going to keep pushing forward? That’s the question.”