SAN JUAN, PR — The ECHL has announced a bold new strategy to extend its footprint into what it sees as an untapped hockey market. With the loss of operations in California and Alaska, the league has decided to move east and south. It turns out that the new club in Jacksonville is merely the tip of the Icemen for the future of the ECHL.
Puerto Rico has recently built a rink in San Juan, and the ECHL has stated that the East Caribbean Hockey Club (or the ECHC) will join the league next year. The club’s mascot will be the Lemmings. A spokesman for the ECHL stated, “With one bold step, we will be leapfrogging both the AHL and NHL in the extent of our geographic reach.”
The new team will become part of the Mountain Division. When asked about the reasoning behind this alignment, the ECHL spokesman stated, “Puerto Rico has the type of rugged terrain that is like that of other teams in the Mountain. Plus, those teams are used to travelling to Alaska. It won’t be difficult for them to change their flight paths in the opposite direction next year.”
To test out the new facility and to spotlight the entertainment value of hockey, the league held an exhibition match pitting players from the Eastern Conference against the Western Conference. The players for the two rosters were chosen for their names.
“We knew that some of the audience members wouldn’t be familiar with the game of hockey,” stated the ECHL. “So we decided to fill the benches with players who would offer the announcer some good material.”
Here are the players who made the cut:
Adirondack Thunder: Mason McDonald (G)
Atlanta Gladiators: Dan Vladar (G)
Brampton Beast: Zach Fucale (G)
Cincinnati Cyclones: Dominic Zombo (F)
Elmira Jackals: Nathan Moon (F)
Florida Everblades: Brendan Harms (F)
Greenville Swamp Rabbits: Joe Houk (D)
Manchester Monarchs: Joe Diamond (F)
Norfolk Admirals: Frankie Simonelli (D)
Orlando Solar Bears: Milos Bubela (F), Chris Crane (F)
Reading Royals: Evan Bloodoff (F), Chase Golightly (D)
South Carolina Stingrays: Joey Leach (D)
Wheeling Nailers: Cody Wydo (F)
Alaska Aces: Ben Lake (F)
Allen Americans: Mike Gunn (D), Riley Gill (G)
Colorado Eagles: Darryl Bootland (F)
Fort Wayne Komets: Jamie Schaafsma (F), Taylor Crunk (F)
Missouri Mavericks: Dane Fox (F), Matt Finn (D)
Idaho Steelheads: Zach Bell (D)
Indy Fuel: Robin Press (D)
Kalamazoo Wings: Kyle Bushee (D)
Quad City Mallards: Sam Warning (F)
Rapid City Rush: Braydon Low (F)
Toledo Walleye: Zach Nastasiuk (F)
Tulsa Oilers: Alexandre Ranger (F), Jonah Imoo (G)
Utah Grizzlies: Garrett Haar (D)
Wichita Thunder: Ian Lowe (F)
As the teams made their way onto the ice, goaltenders Mason McDonald and Riley Gill approached their nets. Sam Warning and Evan Bloodoff lined up for the opening faceoff.
Joe Houk would receive the game’s first penalty: a two minute minor for—what else ?— Houking. Immediately, the Western Conference jumped on the opportunity, as Low and Lowe scored off a stunning tic tac toe passing maneuver, eventually going five hole to beat McDonald. One might say they went down under.
The remainder of the first period was largely quiet until the final minute when a plague erupted.
A broken play led to an outbreak of Bubela as a 2-on-0 developed. The Solar Bears forward snapped a precision pass to Zombo who proceeded to introduce Gill to the apocalypse as he buried a shot top shelf. The goal left the netminder breathless, like a fish out of water gulping for air.
The teams entered the locker rooms with the score tied 1-1.
The second period opened with the Western Conference showing some solid puck control in the offensive zone. Tiring of the heavy play, the Eastern Conference sent in Golightly who immediately got into the action. Fighting off a Press deep in his defensive zone, Golightly took the puck down the length of the ice. Imoo had taken over netminding duties for the West, and he was faked out by Golightly and left looking like a flightless bird trying to soar.
One minute later, the Western Conference would have an equalizer. Digging the puck out of a large scrum in its defensive zone, the squad secured the puck which was sent from Haar to there and then on to a burning Bushee who blazed across center ice. There was only one player to beat, and Bushee would go over the Moon and past the local McDonald’s to bring the score to 2-2.
After the faceoff, the East tried to strike back, but Nastasiuk lived up to his name by delivering a nasty hip check to Diamond and releasing the puck to Bootland who took over sole possession. The teams would enter the locker rooms in a 2-2 deadlock.
Three minutes into the final frame, there was a fight between fish and fowl, as Finn and Crane battled for the puck in the corner. The puck squirted free to a lone Ranger who was sitting all by himself in the slot. But the puck was sucked away by Leach, who fed it to his favorite teammate Bloodoff going at full tilt across center ice. It seemed like the Royals forward was in for a clean breakaway, but he got the royal Schaafsma when the swift Komets skater came out of nowhere to deliver a devastating poke check in the right circle.
At one point, Zombo fed a perfect stretch pass to Cody Wydopen on the wing. Drawing a defender to the weak side, Wydo went cross ice to Diamond who unfortunately could not polish things off as his strike went off the post.
In the most bizarre play of the game, Crane was crashing towards the net with other Eastern skaters close by. Simonelli shut him down, and then tried to pass a soft shot to McDonald, hoping for his goalie to cover up the puck. McDonald, however, could not pick up the pass, and the puck dribbled into the net. The case of Simonelli poisoning would lead to McDonald being closed down.
Hoping that its empire could strike back, the West turned to Darth Vladar to mind the net. With the Dark Force securing the goal, the West came roaring back. Winning a faceoff in the offensive zone, Gunn shot a pass point blank to his teammate in the slot, and the crowd got Crunked up when the Komets sharp shooter went bar down.
Not to be outdone, Dane Fox pulled a sly move on the Eastern Conference netminder. When he fired the puck wide right, it bounced off the wall, off the goalies skate, and into the net, causing the announcer to shout, “What The Fucale?” The East was ahead 4-3.
It almost seemed like the East would go up by two in the closing minutes when Harms was heading on a clear path to the net. But the puck was steered out of Harms’ way by Imoo and then sent down to the deep end by Lake.
The Puerto Rican audience came to its feet when a fight broke out in the closing minute of the third frame. Bell found Diamond to be a bit hard on his fists, and after a flurry of jabs, Bell was rung, as Diamond landed a blow that landed squarely on his opponent’s chin.
In the dying seconds of the final period, Sam Warning headed towards the empty net, looking to seal the deal for the West. However, the Warning shot missed the net wide, and the Eastern Conference won the APRIL FOOLA tilt by a score of 4-3.
From all of us at Team Sin Bin, Happy APRIL FOOLS Day!!!