WICHITA, Kan. – In this week’s Tuesday Takeaways, Samantha Hoffmann, Matthew Harding and Mike Campos bring you the major storylines from around minor league hockey, including; the Toronto Marlies shaking off their championship hangover, an examination of the standings in the ECHL and the have versus the have-nots in SPHL attendance.
Let’s get started!
Just Toronto Doin’ Toronto Things
The Toronto Marlies are looking like their old selves again after dropping Wednesday’s game against the Syracuse Crunch 8-1. Following that loss, the Marlies downed the Manitoba Moose in commanding fashion, 7-2 and again the next night 5-1. They’re just one point back of a playoff spot at 12-10-3-2, but it appears that they’ve found their stride.
Pedal to the Metal
Speaking of not taking the foot off the gas, there was an absurdly large number of games won by a significant margin this past week. In fact, 16 of the 41 American Hockey League games, or 39%, were won by three goals or more. One of the biggest lessons for developing players is to never begin to coast when they’re up by more than one goal. There’s a reason a two-goal lead is known as the most dangerous lead in hockey, and it will be interesting to see if this trend continues.
AHL Three Stars of the Week
★ – Michael Dal Colle – Bridgeport Sound Tigers – Five goals on five shots, in two games, including a hat trick. Not only did his goals result in a lead for the Sound Tigers, but they also picked up big wins over the Providence Bruins and Springfield Thunderbirds.
★★ – Trevor Moore – Toronto Marlies – The left winger is now sitting at 21 points in 24 games for the Marlies after a four-point week (3 goals, 1 assist) in the two big statement wins for the Marlies over the Moose, and is 12 points away from tying his career high in 30 fewer games played. Look for him to continue to be a big part of the Marlies’ recipe for success.
★★★ – Laval Rocket Defense – At this point of the season, we might as well consider the third star a team award. This week, it goes to the defense of the Laval Rocket who held the mighty Syracuse Crunch to just 39 total shots in two games – including a 12-shot effort on Saturday. Laval is standings-wise the worst team in the North Division, so two big wins over one of the best teams in the league is absolutely a commendable effort.
Have Game, Will Travel?
Here we are…six days from jolly ol’ St. Nick getting jammed up in your chimneys, and right now, there are only two ECHL teams — the Atlanta Gladiators and Allen Americans — who can start booking tee times for early April.
Though we are starting to see some slight separation at the top; Newfoundland, Cincinnati, Florida, and Toledo are the only four teams north of 35 points, the next 20 teams in the ECHL are separated by eight points.
One reason for the logjam in the middle, the disparity in home and road records.
Of the 20 teams in the middle of the ECHL standings sandwich, just five teams have .500 records or better both home and away; South Carolina, Utah, Rapid City, Adirondack, and Manchester. Additionally, six teams currently have fewer than five wins on the road; Brampton, Indy, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Wichita, and Worcester.
In order to be successful in the playoffs, no matter the league, you must have a game that can travel. It’s inevitable that in the coming weeks the huge tie-up in the middle will shake itself out further, and success on the road will have everything to do with that.
ECHL Three Stars of the Week
★ – Cam Brown (F-Wheeling Nailers) – After sharing the top spot last week with teammate Nick Saracino, Brown has the spotlight all to himself this week. The second-year pro continues to bank points, piling up another nine last week. This season, Brown has 26 points (7G, 19A) in 25 games with the Nailers.
★★ – Ryan Faragher (F-Idaho Steelheads) – For the fourth time in his career, the Steelheads netminder comes away with the weekly honor. Last week, Faragher went 2-0-0 with one shutout, a 0.50 goals-against average and a save percentage of .981 in two appearances against the Kansas City Mavericks.
★★★ – Chris McCarthy (F-Reading Royals) – The native of nearby Collegeville, PA torched the Allen Americans for seven points (4G, 3A) last weekend, as the Royals extended their winning streak to six games. For the season, McCarthy has 22 points (6G, 16A) in 26 games and is a -7.
Attendance Haves and Have-Nots
We’re about a third of the way into the 2018-19 season, and one of the trends we’re noticing is a clear break between the top and bottom-drawing teams in the SPHL. In the south, where college football reigns supreme, it’s not unusual to see some teams’ attendance pick up in the second half of the season. Still, we’re noticing a big difference between teams with good attendance and poor attendance.
As usual, the Huntsville Havoc leads the SPHL with just over 5,000 fans a game followed by good attendance numbers from Knoxville (4,094), Peoria (3,779), Pensacola (3,511), Quad City (3,398), and Roanoke (2,997).
At this point, the attendance numbers drop sharply with Evansville’s 2,190 fans over their ten home dates, with Birmingham (2,176), Macon (1,776), and Fayetteville (1,765) bringing up the rear. Of these cities, Birmingham is still filling over 50 percent of their available seats.
The biggest concern is when teams drop below an average attendance of 2,000 a game, which is again the case with the Mayhem and Marksmen. Both cities averaged below the benchmark in the 2016-17 season. Seeing Macon and Fayetteville in the attendance cellar is particularly troubling. The Mayhem are having a fantastic season, and the improvements to the Crown Coliseum and solid marketing should be helping to draw more fans to Marksmen games – however, the attendance numbers aren’t following suit.
On the plus side for Fayetteville, their Operation: Sellout promotion for their December 26th game against Roanoke is generating plenty of interest, and should be their best-attended game to date.
League attendance usually jumps 10-15 percent once football season comes to a close, and we’ll revisit this in February and see if there is a boost in the numbers. We certainly hope to see the post-football bounce around the league as sports fans begin to focus on other sports.
SPHL Three Stars of the Week
★ Jake Trask (F-Macon Mayhem) – The league’s leading scorer lit the lamp another three times this weekend – once against Fayetteville and twice in the Mayhem’s 5-1 win against Pensacola. Trask now has points in seven straight games going back to November 24th.
★★ Jacob Barber (F-Birmingham Bulls) – It’s hard to fault Barber in the Bulls’ 5-1 blowout loss to Birmingham – the reigning rookie of the year scored Birmingham’s lone goal shorthanded, adding to his goal and two assists from Friday night’s win against Pensacola. Barber has lit the lamp in four straight games dating back to his hat trick on December 8th in Fayetteville.
★★★ Colin Murray (F-Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs) – The 6’4″ winger is on pace to a career-best year in his third SPHL season. Murray notched the game-winner in Knoxville on Friday night, and scored his eighth goal of the year on Saturday in the Dawgs’ 4-3 win over Fayetteville.
Tuesday Takeaways will take a couple of weeks off for the Holidays. It will return on Tuesday, January 8.