WICHITA, Kan. – Welcome to Tuesday Takeaways, where Samantha Hoffmann, Mike Campos, and I will give you a few of the significant storylines from the weekend across the American Hockey League, ECHL, and Southern Professional Hockey Leagues, plus give you our three stars of the week from each league.
Without further adieu, let’s get after it…
Time to Hit the Panic Button
Waiting on the Youth
Three AHL Stars of the Week
The Most Surprising Unbeaten
If you were to peruse the ECHL standings, you’ll notice that 24 of the 27 teams have lost at least one game in either regulation. At the start of play Tuesday, there are three unbeaten teams (in regulation) in the ECHL, with the most surprising unblemished team residing on the First Coast of Florida, the Jacksonville Icemen. They are off to their best ECHL start ever at 5-0-0-0, besting a 3-0-0-1 start back in 2014-15.
Jason Christie‘s team seems to have a good balance to the roster early on this season, with three players averaging over a point-per-game (Alexis D’Aoust has 12 pts — 6G, 6A in 5 games) so far. The Icemen defense has been incredibly stingy, allowing just 27.2 shots per game on average, which is third-best in the ECHL. Finally, the netminders have been stellar, allowing a league-low 1.80 goals per game with a combined save percentage of .934.
The Icemen have a tough weekend test coming up, when they host the defending Eastern Conference champion, Florida Everblades, for a pair starting on Friday night. With the start the Icemen are on, you might wonder what kind of success will this have in the playoffs? Let’s look, with the help of Joe Babik from the ECHL office:
|2017-18||Wichita||6-0-0-0||Lost in Division Semifinals|
|2016-17||Florida||10-0-1-0||Lost in Division Finals|
|2015-16||Adirondack||7-0-0-0||Lost in Conference Semis|
|2014-15||Evansville||3-0-0-1||Did not make playoffs|
|2013-14||South Carolina||8-0-0-1||Lost in Conference Quarters|
|2012-13||Cincinnati||7-0-2-0||Lost in Conference Finals|
Of the teams that qualified for the playoffs, three of the four had home-ice advantage in the first round and won at least one round of the playoffs. Last year’s final unbeaten team, Wichita, qualified for the playoffs on the final weekend of the regular season and was eliminated in the opening round by the eventual champion, Colorado Eagles.
One Tough Mountain to Climb
With all due respect to the rest of minor league hockey, the toughest division is the ECHL’s Mountain Division. It is there where you find some of most hard-nosed, close-quarter hockey played. Last season, Mountain Division teams claimed five of the top eight spots in overall penalty minutes, and six of the eight teams had over 50 major penalties most for fighting).
In the standings, the overall winning percentage in the division was .549, third-best in the ECHL, behind the North (.568) and Central (.562) divisions. Scoreboard being what it is, however, the Mountain Division can lay claim to housing the last three Kelly Cup Champions (Allen won one as a member of the Mountain Division, Colorado won two).
The Mountain continues to live up to its reputation of being a rough-and-tumble division in the early going of this season. Four of the seven teams in the division are among the league’s penalty minute leaders and have more than five majors so far.
What has changed in the standings, at least for now, is the lack of separation between the teams. All seven teams are separated by four points. With each of the teams playing more than 70 percent of their schedule in the division, it will be interesting to see whether the separation grows through the season, or if the teams stay tightly bunched up. Either way, whichever team comes out of the Mountain division will be very battle-tested and a tough out in the later rounds of next spring’s Kelly Cup Playoffs.
Three ECHL Stars of the Week
Reasoning Behind Light Schedule
The Southern Professional Hockey League had a very light schedule this past Saturday, with only the game between Macon and Pensacola slated. In a way, this was smart planning by the league. Down in the south, college football reigns supreme. Combine gridiron Saturdays with all of the Halloween festivities and it makes sense the league doesn’t run a full schedule of games on Saturday until November 10th.
Storm Silenced by Rivermen
On opening weekend, we saw an inspired performance by the Quad City Storm in their overtime win over Peoria. In last week’s rematch of the “Cold War on 74,” we may have seen the Storm at their worst, dropping a 6-1 decision to the Rivermen. If there is a lesson to be learned for the fledgling franchise, it’s that they saw in Peoria the team they strive to be. Good thing Quad City has a coach who is well versed in how Rivermen head coach Jean-Guy Trudel does things, and we’ll see how the Storm prepare for their upcoming home-and-home with Peoria.
Three SPHL Stars of the Week