AUBURN — Since L/A Fighting Spirit head coach Rod Simmons founded the team for the 2012-13 season when it was based in Lake George, N.Y., his teams have reached the semifinals.

It didn’t matter whether the team was based in the old Northern States Hockey League or the current North American 3 Eastern Hockey League. His teams found their way to the semis.

Unlike the previous three seasons, the Fighting Spirit enter the semifinals against the Cape Cod Islanders this weekend as the lower seed. Being top dog hasn’t always worked out in their favor. The Spirit still doesn’t own a league title to show for their strong regular-season play.

In the 2012-13 season, they lost to the Eastern Kodiaks in the NSHL Championship game. The following season, when the team was based in Waterville N.H., the Spirit fell to the New Jersey Shore Wildcats in the NSHL semifinals. Last year, when they were based in Laconia, N.H., again they fell to the Wildcats this time in the inaugural NA3EHL championship series, which was played at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

“I will be honest with you. I like being the underdog,” Rod Simmons said. “We have won our division the last (three) years. So coming in second place, it’s definitely a new position for us, but I think it also makes us a little hungrier and hopefully we are peaking at the right time. We have made some adjustments in the line up. We have made adjustments in our systems. I hope as I said, we can stay rested, healthy and have a good outing.”

The three-game series in Falmouth, Mass., begins on Friday at 4 p.m. with Game 2 on Saturday at 12:20 p.m., and if needed, Game 3 on Sunday at 11:40 a.m. The winner will face the winner of the New York Aviators/New Jersey Wildcats series, with the highest remaining seed hosting the NA3EHL Championship Series next weekend.


The Islanders will be looking for some revenge from last year’s semifinals where the Fighting Spirit swept them to win the Eastern Division Title to advance to the Championship Series. This season, the teams split the regular-season games with each team winning four games each.

One thing the Fighting Spirit have going for them against the Islanders is they have Anton Zemba’s number. The Fighting Spirit have accounted for four of the goaltender’s six losses this season. He had a 15-5-1 record, a 2:39 goals against average a .929 save percentage.

Zemba only made one start against the Skylands Kings last weekend in the first round, but Simmons believes they may be just resting him up.

“I am sure they probably rested him,” he said. “Skylands is a solid program, but they had their leading scorer out, (he was) suspended. So they might have chose to go a different route, but Zemba has played well for them in net this year. We found ways to beat him and hopefully we can continue to do that, if he’s in net. Like I said we haven’t seen their other (goaltender).”

Simmons said if they do see Steven Schmidtt, who made the other start this past weekend, they will have to go about their normal game plan.

Simmons believes depth will be the key this weekend and just can’t just rely on Dylan Vrees and Brett Bittner up front for the offensive production.


“Colby Siering plays a tough game, the other addition we made late…Austin Davis, he has been solid guy for us,” Simmons said. “If (Thomas) Puetz healthy, we will see. Mike Heffernan has been a horse forever, and he’s good in situations. I think we have six guys that can go. We have to deal with some injuries. Heffernan is still dealing with concussion issues from the hit at center ice. We will see how that goes.”

Siering was third on the team in scoring with 43 points as he potted 22 goals and 21 assists in the regular season. Mike Heffernan was tied for fourth in scoring with 13 goals and 13 assists. Austin Davis had four goals and three assists in 13 games, while Thomas Puetz, who injured his ankle against the New England Stars, had eight goals and 11 assists in 13 regular season games.

On the back end, Linder Kenyan has stepped up his offensive game with the series against the Stars. He had two goals and two assists in two games. This is coming off scoring a goal and adding eight assists in 13 regular season games.

“As we watched him, he wasn’t put in situations, he was overshadowed by other guys,” Simmons said of Kenyon’s time with the Philadelphia Little Flyers of the Eastern Hockey League. “We saw a lot in him and we put him in situations that he can progress from that. That’s the difference.”

Kenyon said it took him time to get comfortable with his new team.

“I think it was just getting support from everyone and getting pumped for the playoffs,” he said. “I was really excited to play.”

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