ORLANDO, Fla. – The holiday season is a time for reflecting and dreaming. The Sin Bin wants to help the sometimes battered and bruised squads get into the Christmas spirit, and we are doing so by putting together our third annual special wish lists for Santa. If that North Pole miracle worker can bring at least some of these treats in his sleigh, it will make the New Year bright. We begin with the South Division and will rotate through the league in coming installments.
A Fresh Look for the Second Half
The Atlanta Gladiators have had one of the worst seasons in team history and are currently ranked dead last in the South Division, with 16 points and a 6-14-5-1 record. What Saint Nick should do for this struggling Atlanta team is give them a win streak or two so that they can regain some confidence and grit during the second half of the season. Playing the role of spoiler can be fun, and that seems to be where the team is heading. Maybe the Ghost of Christmas Future can also get into the game and help head coach Jeff Pyle rebuild the team for next season.
A Return to the Kelly Cup Finals
The Florida Everblades have had disappointment in the Kelly Cup playoffs these past few years. Having fumbled the cup by losing two games in a row to Colorado in the Kelly Cup Finals last year, the Everblades are looking for some redemption in the finals this year. Maybe Saint Nick can bless this Southwest Florida team with some extra luck during the playoffs this year.
A New Affiliate
After the Maine Mariners joined the league and became the ECHL affiliate of the New York Rangers, the Greenville Swamp Rabbits were left in the dust when it comes to affiliations. While having an affiliate is practical, it isn’t required at the ECHL level. However, teams with affiliates do have the advantage of players being sent down. Statistics show that the AHL affiliation is a net gain for an ECHL team; it helps out with the salary cap, and it provides an influx of new prospects looking to make it to the next level.
Our Swamp Rabbits correspondent, C.J. Smith, adds to the wishlist, writing: “The Swamp Rabbits need better play by the defense. Both goalies have had to make big save after big save just to stay in games. The opponents are getting way too many clear chances. They will start out physical but cannot hold that play for a full 60 minutes. They have allowed 119 goals in 32 games, second worst in the league, only Allen is worse. That is over 3.7 goals per game they are giving up. They also rank dead last in penalty kill.”
Fight off the Thaw and Maintain the Contender Status
At the beginning of the season, the Jacksonville Icemen got off to a very good start and went undefeated throughout the month of October. In the past month, the all-powerful Florida Everblades have reclaimed their throne atop the South Division, and the Icemen are ranked third overall. Maybe they won’t be able to retake first place, but if the team can stay firmly within the playoff hunt, things will be jolly in Jacksonville.
Discipline on Defense
The Admirals rank near the bottom of the league when it comes to shots against and goals against per game. Ty Reichenbach has been a workhorse in the net. He currently ranks second in the league in terms of total minutes played (1212), but he deserves more support in the defensive zone. He leads the league with 662 saves, and that is 68 saves ahead of Michael Garteig. When your team is giving up over 36 shots per game, you know the team is going to face a frustrating uphill battle. Maybe Santa can loan the Abominable Snowman to help shore things up in that defensive zone for the Admirals.
A Second Backup Goalie
While the Orlando Solar Bears’ main goalie Martin Ouellette has been a solid force behind the net, his backup goalies have struggled. Rookie Corbin Boes, while having good some nights, is inconsistent, and the team’s defense has sometimes put him in a difficult spot. When Ouellette was called up to the Syracuse Crunch (Orlando’s AHL affiliate) in November, Head Coach Drake Berehowsky was left scrambling to find someone who could help anchor the defense. Both Solar Bears fans and players would rest easy knowing they had two solid forces behind the net, and hopefully, Santa will bring them a new face between the pipes this Christmas. Failing that, the Solar Bears could use some grit and discipline in the defensive zone.
The South Carolina Stingrays, once a powerful playoff entity, have not won a playoff game since June 2017. After being swept in the Kelly Cup Finals by Colorado that year, they were swept in the first round of the 2018 playoffs by division rivals the Orlando Solar Bears. The Stingrays are looking to get back into the Kelly Cup race this year, and then they look to get their postseason mojo back.
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