WICHITA, Kan. – Welcome back to another installment of Monday Headlines, where we look back at the previous weekend of ECHL action and give you some headlines from across the league.
We hope you had a great New Year’s and celebrated responsibly. Now, to the headlines:
It’s D-Day for the American Hockey League, where we find out who’s in and who’s out for the 2020-21 season, set to begin on February 5. This comes on the heels of the league announcing that a framework for the season had been reached last week. There have been some details emerging about the framework, such as teams playing a minimum of 24 games, five divisions including an all-Canadian division, and a playoff format (still TBD on if there will be playoffs) to be worked out at a later date.
It is hard to imagine that the AHL will have every team play this season, the question becomes how many teams will suspend operations? 19 AHL teams are owned by their NHL affiliates, so it’s a near certainty they will play. The teams to watch will be those 12 who are independently owned and cannot weather the loss of having any fans in buildings.
Obviously, there will be a trickle-down effect in the ECHL. Once the AHL team lineup has been announced, you could see the remaining teams move quickly to scoop up remaining free agents and those from opt-out teams. That, in turn, could mean a glut of prospects coming down to the ECHL after training camps disband later this month.
There are lots of moving parts to all of this, which could have significant impacts on the ECHL, so stay tuned.
Inside Rapid City’s Slow Start:
Of all the teams to watch in the ECHL offseason, the Rapid City Rush were making moves that made one sit up and pay attention. New ownership group with Spire Hockey, a revitalized front office, free and clear of local Coronavirus restrictions…it was all set up for success.
The success will likely still come, but on the ice, the Rush have gotten off to a slow start. Through three weeks of the season, the Rush have lost six straight games, with a points percentage of .143, and the Allen Americans are coming to town for three this week.
Defense and special teams have been an issue for the Rush to start the season, allowing an average of four goals per game. The penalty kill has been porous, allowing six goals on 27 times shorthanded (77.8% kill rate) and a league-high three shorthanded goals.
The offense has had to play catchup in more games than not, surrendering the opening goal in five of their seven games. When they have scored the first goal, the Rush make up a quarter of all losses in the league when scoring first (2 of 8).
There is time for head coach Daniel Tetrault to right the ship, but with points percentage being the driving force behind playoff qualifications this season, a team cannot afford to get too far in the hole before digging out.
We’re Goin’ Streaking!!!!
Here is a trio of interesting streaks that have evolved as the season nears the one-month mark:
- Florida has scored first in every game this season (their record is 7-2-0) and more than three goals in each game this season (lead the league with 42 goals in nine games…an average of 4.67 goals per game)
- Every game the Indy Fuel have played this season – seven so far – have been decided by one goal. Four of the contests have required overtime or a shootout.
- Rapid City has allowed more than three goals per game in each contest this season.
The Sin Bin’s Player of the Week:
Joe Garreffa (Allen): The Americans rookie forward feasted on playing Wichita this past weekend, putting up six points (3G, 3A) in three games and taking over the rookie-scoring lead with 10 points (5G, 5A). Before turning pro, the 21-year-old forward posted 315 points (108G, 207A) in 297 regular-season Ontario Hockey League games. He added another 25 points (9G, 16A) in 29 playoff games.
The Sin Bin’s Goalie of the Week:
Cam Johnson (Florida): For the second straight week, Johnson is our Goalie of the Week after posting another stellar weekend against the Orlando Solar Bears. The fourth-year netminder stopped all but one Solar Bear shot this weekend, holding the Solar Bears scoreless for close to 100 minutes, having a .982 save percentage and a microscopic .58 goals against average.
This season, Johnson is 5-1-0-0, with a 1.91 goals against average, .935 save percentage to go with a pair of shutouts.
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.