SOUTHAVEN, Miss - Before his first home game against the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs since his call-up, rookie Mike Moran settles back into something familiar. He gazes down at the laces of his black skates while he tapes white stripes along his Easton hockey stick in front of a RiverKings black and gold number 26 jersey before battle. Calm, cool and collected, Moran is ready to spawn havoc for opposing teams.
In his rookie season with the Mississippi RiverKings, the forward has accumulated 41 points (23G, 18A) in 33 games. Yet, the young professional has learned some trials of a minor-league hockey player; players come and go and no team is set in stone in the SPHL.
“I learned the business side of hockey when I came into the league,” Moran remarked. “Guys get traded left and right every week versus to as in college you had a set team. Your friend could be here one day and gone the next.”
Looking back, the team’s lead goal scorer reminisces of times when things were more systematized, when a team stayed together all season as it did at Boston University where the Massachusetts native finished his four-year career last year. Not only was his time at BU more stable than his first professional year, but also it was a dream come true.
“Going to Boston University games as a kid really stuck an impact on me. As a young hockey player, those games were a lot of fun to go to. With my two uncles playing there in the 1990’s, It was a dream come true to attend and play there, you could say.”
Moran’s uncles, Mark and Mike Bavis (an assistant and associate head coach while Moran was enrolled at BU), were both drafted by NHL teams after playing for the Terriers. Their nephew, Moran, continues the family legacy in the professional ranks with the RiverKings.
As a young prospect from the five-time national championship program, scouts foretold his abilities as a proficient skater.
“Scouts always said I was skilled guy and big skater,” Moran recounts. “I tried to hit as many guys as I could in college. With that, they said I really needed to work on my tempo and improve on my skating.”
While working to improve his speed in the professional ranks, Moran wanted to find a landing spot. He tributes center Cullen Bradshaw (ECHL Adirondack) for coming to Mississippi and other members of the RiverKings for showing him the ropes.
“Bradshaw and I were in Idaho together. He was the one who told me to come down here,” Moran recalls. “I didn’t even know about the team beforehand. When he’s been here, he’s been great. Other guys like Cuz (Ryan Marcuz), Matty (Matt Harington), Sherwood and Fox brought me in and showed me everything. It has been a really nice transition.”
For the RiverKings, Moran’s abilities are paying dividends for the team. Just last week against the Macon Mayhem, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound forward native notched his first hat trick of the season in a 6-5 loss and added five assists in Saturday’s 9-2 victory over Roanoke.
Yet, his talents have not gone unnoticed.
After earning SPHL player of the week for December 12-18, Moran’s daily routine of going to Landers Center for practice was shifted. He earned a call-up to ECHL Atlanta followed by a second call-up to Wichita mid-season.
“You just have to be in the right mindset when you jump to another league,” Moran said. “It’s tough driving somewhere and only being there for a week or two then coming back. Toughest part about it is getting to know the guys.”
Traveling from team to team as a rookie can surely disrupt a sense of comfortability. But for Moran, he knows he needs to become more acquainted with the unknown in his early career.
“Moving up effects your game for sure, but anytime you start something new, it will be different,” Moran remarked. “At the same time, you want to get called up. It doesn’t matter what level of hockey you are playing.”
With different things thrown on to Moran’s plate during the season, he maintained a professional attitude. Moran credits his 22-goal performance to a strong supporting cast.
“I just play with some good guys on the team. I think the team has been playing really well this season,” said Moran. Everybody has been clicking. I think we just have some great guys making great plays on the team.”
Mike Moran and the Mississippi RiverKings will fight for seed placement for the playoffs with nine games remaining in the season. Back two points from fifth place, the forward says good defense will help them achieve aspirations.
“I think when the team plays simple and plays defense we’re a tough team to beat in this league,” Moran acclaimed. “So, if we just focus on that I think our goals will come. We got two good goalies and a good core in the back. If we just play good team defense, we will be pretty solid.”
RiverKings' rookie Mike Moran is tied for second place in the SPHL for points scored (41) and remains second in the league for goals scored (22) with 33 games played this season. © Kori LaVire
The RiverKings return the ice to the Landers Center on Friday, March 17 to take on the Pensacola Ice Flyers to take another step to clinch a playoff spot. For ticket and details, visit RiverKings.com or call 662-342-1755
About the Mississippi RiverKings
The RiverKings are supported by our community partners, season ticket holders, fans, and grants from Maddox Foundation, an independent private foundation based in Hernando, Miss. To find out more about the RiverKings, call 662-342-1755 or visit RiverKings.com.