WICHITA, Kan. – Welcome to Monday Headlines, where we look back at the previous weekend of ECHL action and give you some headlines from across the league.
Before we get into the headlines, I want to wish you a happy, healthy, and blessed holiday season. We have been through a lot this year, and I hope each of you takes a moment to reflect on the blessings you’ve had this year and look ahead to what we hope will be a much brighter 2021. On behalf of my team at The Sin Bin, we thank you for your support of our website throughout the year. It has been our honor to bring you content that has been newsworthy, timely, and informative. We pledge to continue this into the new year.
What Is the ECHL’s COVID Testing Strategy?
After two weeks of the ECHL season, there is finally clarity on what the ECHL’s testing strategy is. In an interview to air during an upcoming episode of the Three Periods Podcast (you might have heard of it, it’s pretty good…,) ECHL Commissioner Ryan Crelin said the players were tested at their offseason homes, tested once they arrived into the ECHL market, and are being tested twice-a-week during the season in an effort he labels as an “escalated effort” to thwart a possible outbreak.
Players also have to enter their temperatures into an app each morning and night. If the temperature is over a certain threshold (the Centers for Disease Control says 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit), they cannot come to the rink and have to isolate.
Crelin also elaborated on what the “Commissioner’s Exempt List” is, saying it is used for COVID-positive players, contract-tracing, and any other “pandemic reasons deemed appropriate by the league office.” Crelin says the list serves as a catch-all for any pandemic-related eventuality that may arise. Once players are placed on the list, they will be on there for a minimum of five days, their roster spot and pay held. If a player(s) are COVID-positive, the players must have a doctor’s clearance before returning to the ice.
As of Sunday afternoon, there were 17 players on the Commissioner’s Exempt List.
The league suffered it’s first COVID-related postponements this past weekend, a decision Crelin says was made in conjunction with the teams:
“If we think there is a hot spot that puts the player safety and game in jeopardy, we walk through a decision tree with both teams and make a decision. We’re going to have issues along the way, you’ve seen that in other sports as well, but we’ve mapped it out where we can look at the entire set of criteria and make a decision. In some instances, if there is a player or two that have tested positive and have isolated and everyone else tested negative, we can proceed to the game. If we think it’s getting too hot, we’ll postpone the game and play it at a later time.”
So far, the league has not announced makeup dates for the two-game set.
The Big Dogs:
A check of the ECHL standings at the unofficial Christmas break reveals three teams at the head of the class when it comes to points percentage (it’s like “Whose Line is it Anyway” this season, the points don’t matter). For this section, we’ll put Wichita aside since they’ve only played one game.
The Florida Everblades have started quickly out of the gates, jumping out to a 4-0-0-0 mark and firing on all cylinders. The ‘Blades have scored 21 goals (a league-leading average of 5.25 goals per game), the second-best defense in the league (allowing 1.75 goals per game), and have a 127% special teams efficiency (combined power-play and penalty kill percentages), buoyed by their league-leading six power-play goals.
We talked in the Everblades season preview, this team may be the deepest offensively head coach Brad Ralph has ever had, and it’s bearing fruit. The Everblades have seven players in the top-18 in league scoring; granted, there’s a 14-way tie for fourth in scoring with four points, but impressive nonetheless. Forwards Patrick Harper and Cameron Hebig are piloting the offense, with each posting back-to-back multi-point games against Greenville last weekend.
Meanwhile, the Indy Fuel are off to a 3-0-0-0 start after securing the extra point in the Mavericks’ home opener Friday night. While the offense is tied with Allen for second-best in the league (an average of 3.67 goals per game), the Fuel are playing tight defensively and getting solid netminding from Dan Bakala. The eighth-year pro leads the league with three wins, has allowed eight goals on 90 shots faced, has 2.56 goals against average and a .911 save percentage. Offensively, Matt Marcinew leads the Fuel with four points (part of the 14-way tie I mentioned above), and 14 players so far have registered a point.
The Sin Bin’s Player of the Week:
Matt Marcinew (Indy): The fourth-year forward made his presence known on the scoresheet Friday night, tallying four points (1G, 3A). After lighting the lamp to start the game against the Mavericks, Marcinew had a hand in each of Indy’s last three goals.
The Sin Bin’s Goalie(s) of the Week:
Zach Fucale & Hunter Shepard (South Carolina): The Stingrays netminding duo was on-point this past weekend, allowing just two goals on 68 shots faced to the Jacksonville Icemen. For the stat nerds (like me) out there, that’s a save percentage of .971 and a goals against average of 1.00. Both tendys are near the top of the ECHL in several major categories.
They Said It:
“If I had my choice between pandemic and not pandemic, I would choose not pandemic.” – ECHL Commissioner Ryan Crelin, saying what we’ve likely all been thinking this year.
Matthew Harding is the Editor-in-Chief for TheSinBin.net, covers the ECHL and the Wichita Thunder. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @SinBinThunder.