With October officially in the books, and November well underway, it’s time to break down the North Division so far. The six teams of the North have kept things rather tight through the first few weeks with the top five teams within three points of one another. Only Brampton, who went 0-6 to start the season, are on the outside looking in. But, all things considered, it could be much worse for the Beast. After all, it’s still early, and they’re only four points behind fourth-place Reading. Opposite of Brampton, Reading got off to a hot start, going on a 4-0 run to start before dropping two straight to Worcester (that run included a 9-4 drubbing of the Adirondack Thunder). Wheeling held the division lead until this past weekend when Manchester took five points from the Norfolk Admirals to take a share. Worcester, in their first ECHL season, have had a brutal travel schedule which has already taken them as far west as Utah, but have held steady with a winning record and 11 points so far.
North Division Standings as of November 7th:
Top Scorers: Ty Loney (5 G, 6 A); Eric Neiley (4 G, 7 A); J.C. Campagna (2 G, 6 A)
Goaltenders: Nick Riopel (3-4-1, 4.30 GAA, .862 SV%); Drew Fielding (1-0, 4.56 GAA, .844 SV%)
Special Teams: Power Play – 18.4%; Penalty Kill – 73%
Normally strong, Adirondack has been off to a middling start to this season. After two straight divisional wins to open the campaign, they dropped the next two and have basically gone back and forth ever since. One would be forgiven to hang that result on the goaltending which has suffered mightily if the goals-against situation is any indicator. The offense has been producing well as Adirondack’s 35 goals are good enough to tie for second in the division. Both of these results are helped/hindered by their special teams play. Adirondack’s penalty kill is second-to-last in the ECHL as they’ve allowed 10 goals while on the kill. On the flip-side, they have a top ten power play. Some teams live and die by special teams, and it would behoove the Thunder to find a way to tighten up shorthanded before too long. For his part, Loney’s 11 points are good enough to put him in the top 20 scorers in the ECHL, a boon for the Thunder.
Top Scorers: Brandon Marino (5 G, 5 A); Willie Corrin (1 G, 8 A); Matt Pegrave (4 G, 4 A)
Goaltenders: Andrew D’Agostini (2-1-0-1, 3.24 GAA, .884 SV%); Michael McNiven (0-2-1, 4.19 GAA, .868 SV%); Marcus Hogberg (0-3-0, 5.30 GAA, .863 SV%)
Special Teams: Power Play: 17%; Penalty Kill: 79.3%
Brampton is a team that has been beset by problems from the start. The Beast sputtered out of the gate with six straight losses, though with the possible exception of their October 21st loss to Kalamazoo, they were never truly out of any of those games. They have had a great deal of difficulty finding someone to rely on between the pipes, though it would seem that they’ve settled on D’Agostini for now. His stat line hasn’t been stellar, but he’s held the line when it’s counted and has backstopped the Beast to all but one of their points. The Beast are another that have had issues with the penalty kill which doesn’t bode well as they also lead the league in times short-handed with 58. They have allowed opponents 12 power-play goals, and share the league lead with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. captain Marino is leading by example, with a solid 10 points in as many games.
Top Scorers: Joel Lowry (5 G, 5 A); Tony Cameranesi (3 G, 7 A); Cory Ward (4 G, 5 A)
Goaltenders: Charles Williams (4-1-1, 2.29 GAA, .916 SV%); Evan Cowley (1-2-0-1, 3.46 GAA, .894 SV%)
Special Teams: Power Play: 14.8%; Penalty Kill: 88.5%
The Monarchs currently share the division lead with Wheeling, and the story there is all about shots. They are putting up an average of 42.2 shots on goal per game with multiple 50+ shot games. So far, this has served them well as their 37 goals put them at third-best in the ECHL. They had some struggles early on in the net which led to a few losses to start the season, but Williams appears to have settled in as the number one goalie for Manchester. Their main issue so far in the young season has been on the power play: the Monarchs have been on the power play 61 times so far, with only nine goals to show for it. This seems like a minor quibble for a team that puts up video game offensive numbers, but special teams goals turn losses into wins over time. Believe it or not, this team could be even better offensively. Their goals against total of 30 puts them 13th in the league. Not bad, not great. And while they share the lead with the Nailers, they have also played two more games. So, their division lead is a little bit of smoke-and-mirrors for now.
Top Scorers: Alex Krushelnyski (4 G, 5 A); Ryan Penny (4 G, 3 A); Matt Willows (2 G, 5 A)
Goaltenders: Mark Dekanich (3-1, 2.97 GAA, .896 SV%); John Muse (2-1, 2.34 GAA, .938 SV%)
Special Teams: Power Play: 17.9%; Penalty Kill: 84.0%
As previously stated, Reading had the hottest start in the division at 4-0 with three of those coming in overtime. This success in extra frames is important as winning one-goal games is a big difference between a successful season and an unsuccessful one. Reading also has the distinction of having played the fewest games in the North, holding three games in hand over the Monarchs while only trailing them by two points. The Royals have been solid on both ends of the ice, their special teams have been rather good, and they have the fewest penalty minutes per game in the North. Both of their goaltenders have proven reliable, and their goals-per-game are on par with Manchester’s, as well. For fans of Reading, there’s very little to complain about, and they will likely be competing for the top spot once they catch up on games played.
Top Scorers: Reid Gardiner (8 G, 5 A); Cody Wydo (2 G, 11 A); Nick Sorkin (3 G, 9 A)
Goaltenders: Sean Maguire (3-1, 4.04 GAA, .907 SV%); Colin Stevens (2-0, 3.27 GAA, .907 SV%); Will King (0-0-1, 2.41 GAA, .900 SV%)
Special Teams: Power Play: 38.5%; Penalty Kill: 74.4%
The Nailers are another team that is quite impressive offensively, and it’s easy to spot the reasons why: four of the top 20 scorers in the ECHL make their home in Wheeling, including the team’s fourth-most-prolific Cam Brown. They boast the most successful power-play in the league, as well, and they have had some good play from their goaltenders, as well. They’re scoring at a rate of 4.38 goals per game, tops in the North. On the flipside, they’re 1-2 in overtime so far, and haven’t had much success against their division foes thus far. Their penalty kill has also been trouble, last in the league until recently (they’ve since since improved to 25th in the league). It hasn’t hindered them too much as they’ve made up for it on the offensive side. If they can keep the scoring rate up, they can cover up this deficiency as they have thus far, and continue their success.
Top Scorers: Patrick McNally (5 G, 6 A); Wade Murphy (2 G, 4 A); Kellen Jones (2 G, 4 A)
Goaltenders: Mitch Gillam (3-2, 2.00 GAA, .929 SV%); Eamon McAdam (2-1-1, 3.00 GAA, .913 SV%)
Special Teams: Power Play: 13.8%; Penalty Kill: 91.9%
In their inaugural ECHL season, the Railers have presented themselves quite admirably, especially on defense. Their PK success rate is good enough for second in the league, behind only the stalwart South Carolina Stingrays. They’re also allowing only 2.5 goals per game, an impressively stingy rate. However, their own scoring is only slightly higher (very slightly at 2.67 goals per game), and their power-play rate has been rather weak as well. Overall, it hasn’t mattered. As long as they can score more than the opposition, they’ll keep winning games. And with Gillam and McAdam both with save percentages north of .900, that’s not outside the realm of possibility. Still, it would do them well to find a way to improve their scoring to ensure sustained success over the long term.
Overall, this division has been an exciting one to watch so far with no team holding a clear advantage over the others. The North has had some of the most electric offenses in the league, and while that may not continue over the course of the season, it’s certainly a lot of fun for now. Of course, this has been a very small sample size so far. The month of November is likely to shake things up in the division, and there will almost assuredly be some clear contenders and pretenders starting to emerge. Don’t be surprised to see Reading resurgent and Worcester begin to regress if things continue as they are. Either Wheeling or Manchester will continue to compete for the top spot, while the other will begin to lag a bit. Adirondack is generally a strong team, so there’s a good chance that they’ll return to form if their goaltending begins to even out. Brampton may begin to pick things up, but it might be difficult to recover from their rough start. Expect them near the bottom unless things change drastically for them.
The ECHL North Roundup will return next month, where all of the North Division writers will collaborate to give you more diverse, insider looks at all of the teams in the division.