November was a month of ups and downs within the ECHL’s North Division. It looked at times as if one team or another would pull away from the pack, but in the end, the division is just as close as it was a month ago. The big winners are the Brampton Beast, who clawed their way out of last place and have been as high as fourth at times. On the other end of things, the Worcester Railers have suffered in November, dropping from third to last over the course of the month. But the battle at the top hasn’t changed as Manchester and Wheeling have traded the lead back and forth from the very beginning, and find themselves now in an absolute deadlock. Adirondack and Reading have held steady through the month, and are currently nipping at the heels of the leaders.
Standings as of 12/6/17:
Top Scorers: Ty Loney (12 G, 8 A); Shane Conacher (3 G, 14 A); Pierre-Luc Mercier (4 G, 10 A)
Goaltenders: Nick Riopel (4-3-0-0, 3.57 GAA, .911 SV%); Drew Fielding (0-2-0-0, 3.97 GAA, .860 SV%); Connor Ingram (2-0-0-1, 1.30 GAA, .960 SV%)
Special Teams: Power Play: 22.6% (3rd in the league); Penalty Kill: 79.1% (21st in the league)
After going .500 in October, the Thunder departed on an 18-day, nine-game road trip. Adirondack went 6-2-0-1 during that span. The Thunder then played three straight against the Reading Royals, dropping all three in regulation. Reading is the proverbial thorn in Adirondack’s side, outscoring the Thunder 24-12 in the five games played between the two teams. November saw several roster changes, including the return of defenseman Mathieu Brodeur. There were two trades, defenseman Ryan Segalla was sent to the Norfolk Admirals for forward Ben Murphy, and forward J.C. Campagna got shipped to the Orlando Solar Bears for Andrew Radjenovic. The AHL’s Syracuse Crunch loaned defenseman Matthew Spencer and goaltender Ingram to the Thunder for a weekend, with Ingram going 2-0-0-1 with 95 saves and a 1.30 GAA. Forward Austin Orszulak returned from injury and immediately made an impact, scoring two goals in his first game back. The Thunder did lose a valuable forward when Brian Ward signed a professional tryout (PTO) with the Utica Comets (AHL) November 22md and remained there until December.
Top Scorers: Brandon Marino (7 G, 12 A), Chris Leveille (6 G, 10 A) and Matt Petgrave (5 G, 7 A)
Goaltenders: Andrew D’Agostini (4-2-0-1, 2.97 GAA, .904 SV%); Marcus Hogberg (3-4-0, 3.58 GAA, .908 SV%); Chris Driedger (1-0-0-0, 2.00 GAA, .933 SV%)
Special Teams: Power Play: 15.3% (17th in the league); Penalty Kill: 84.5% (10th in the league)
After starting the season 1-5-1-0, the Beast improved with an excellent November (7-3-0-1), including a six-game winning streak. November also included a 5-0 drumming by the Jacksonville IceMen in their first win ever and their first ever shutout. However, that was the motivation that led to that six game winning streak. Also helping out with that streak was Alex Foster joining the team, whom they picked up from their time in Rapid City. Foster’s first game was also the start of the winning streak. He put up an impressive seven points in seven games (4 G, 3 A) for the month, securing him the third most points for the team in the month. Leveille jumped up the top scorers ranks for the team as he posted nine points (3 G, 6 A) in the month, followed closely by Marino, also with nine points (2 G, 7 A). During the month, while there was the lows of losing three straight, (two to Rapid City and one to Jacksonville) there was the highs of beating rival Reading, whom the Beast also defeated in the first round of the playoffs last season. Their most exciting game was the second game versus the Royals when the beast came from behind twice to erase multiple two-goal leads. The Beast won that game with a three-goal third period off of 13 shots. Their next game was a spirited game versus their longtime rival the Kalamazoo Wings, as the Beast led for most of the third period until the last 1:15 of the game when Lane Scheidl tied the game. The crowd exploded though as the OT was winding down when Marino broke through his coverage to put the puck in the net on a beauty backhanded shot to win the game with only 15.4 seconds left. November was a definite improvement over their October start to the season. With a tough December coming (two 3-in-3 series’) the Beast will hopefully use this going forward.
Top Scorers: Joel Lowry (9 G, 11 A); Tony Cameranesi (4 G, 14 A); Zac Lynch (9 G, 7 A)
Goaltenders: Charles Williams (8-3-1-0, 2.14 GAA, .933 SV%); Evan Cowley (4-4-0-1, 3.21 GAA, .904 SV%)
Special Teams: Power Play: 20.8% (6th in the league); Penalty Kill: 88.0% (3rd in the league)
With their shot totals returning to more mortal levels, the Monarchs have managed to compensate in other areas on the ice. The young guys have really stepped up to the plate with their scoring, with Lowry, Lynch and Kevin Morris (currently on-loan to the Binghamton Devils) all having career years. Defensively, they’ve improved their goals-against standing to 9th in the league, and both Williams and Cowley have improved as the year has gone on. The biggest story for the Monarchs has been the power-play, which has come alive over the course of November. All-in-all, the Monarchs have improved their play across the board, which would normally translate into wins. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case all month, as it was a real Jekyll-and-Hyde affair. The Monarchs went on their longest losing streak to-date with a four-game slide, but played well enough early on that they managed to hold on to their share of the division lead. They’ve since gone on a four-game winning streak to start December.
Top Scorers: Matt Willows (6 G, 10 A); Alex Krushelnyski (7 G, 8 A); Mark Naclerio (7G, 8 A).
Goaltenders: John Muse (5-3-1, 2.45 GAA, .925 SV%, and 1 shutout); Mark Dekanich (5-4-0, 3.13 GAA, .896 SV%).
Special Teams: Power Play: 13.0% (22nd in the league); Penalty Kill 83.6% (12th in the league)
After going a perfect 4-0-0 in the month of October, the Royals returned back to earth as they started the month of November going 1-3-1 in their first five games. The team would win three of their four home games in November to tie the franchise record set back during the 2005-06 season. The Royals would struggle on the road during the month of November as they went 3-6-1. Back on November 22nd, the Royals would lose a huge piece of their offense as Krushelnyski was recalled to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. His time in the AHL would be short lived as the Phantoms returned Krushelnyski to the Royals eight days later.
Top Scorers: Cody Wydo (12 G, 15 A); Reid Gardiner (11 G, 13 A); Garrett Meurs (12 G,11 A)
Goaltenders: Will King (2-1-1, 3.41 GAA, .906 SV%); Adam Morrison (0-3-0, 3.74 GAA, .872 SV%); Sean Maguire (8-3-0, 3.28 GAA, .910 SV%)
Sepecial Teams: Power Play: 26% (1st in the league); Penalty Kill; 76.8% (25th in the league)
After a successful start to the season in October, the Nailers looked to continue in November. After going 4-1-1-0 in October, the Nailers ran a 7-4-1-0 record in November. The Nailers saw Colin Stevens called to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton late in October and he hasn’t returned (was released and was on his way back to Wheeling but signed a new PTO when Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray was injured that day.) Players Freddie Tiffels, Jeff Taylor, and Dylan Zink were sent to Wheeling on the 9th and made an immediate impact. Taylor got an assist in his first game with Wheeling. Tiffels scored a goal in the game in Toledo on the 11th, a pair of assists against Norfolk on the 12th, and scored a pair of goals and an assist against Adirondack. In ten games, the trio have picked up a point in eight of them. The Nailers hit three milestones late in November as they picked up the 500th win at WesBanco Arena with a 4-3 SO win against Worcester on November 22nd, the 10,000 assist in team history in the November 25th game against Worcester (Gardiner‘s secondary assist on Dan Milan‘s third period goal) and the 900th win in team history in Reading on the 26th.
Top Scorers: Patrick McNally (6 G, 8 A); Barry Almeida (5 G, 9 A); Chris Langkow (4 G, 10 A)
Goaltenders: Eamon McAdam (5-4-2-1, 2.74 GAA, .915 SV%); Mitch Gillam (3-4-0-0, 2.73 GAA, .898 SV%)
Special Teams: Power Play: 12.3% (25th in the league); Penalty Kill: 79.5% (20th in the league)
After a solid start, Worcester hit the rocks a bit in November, going 5-5-0-1 and dropping to last in the division. The name of the game in Worcester is scoring, or lack thereof as they scored two or fewer goals in five of those games, and three or fewer in eight. They currently sit at 25th in the ECHL in goals-for with 49. They’re also suffering on special teams, ranking in the bottom third of the league on both ends. Worcester also find themselves the most penalized team in the North, which is a bad thing for a team with such a porous PK. A bright spot, however, is in the goaltending: McAdam and Gillam both rank in the top 20 in the ECHL in goals-against average, and starter McAdam is a respectable 14th in save percentage, as well. The talent is there in Worcester, but the offense needs to step up: McNally and Ashton Rome sit atop the team with a mere six goals apiece after 19 games.
The offenses in the North have continued to impress, with three teams in the league’s top ten in goals-for, and the teams have traded wins back and forth throughout. Things are just as tight as ever. Four teams are within one win of the division lead, with Brampton not much further behind. Every other division has at least one team that already looks out of the running, but even Worcester is one or two lucky breaks from being back in the running. The key to the division over December is Reading. They have three games apiece against Wheeling and Manchester, and could play spoiler to one or both while improving their own position. Whatever happens as we move toward the new year, the North will not disappoint.
Our ECHL North Division Roundup will return after New Year’s Day.