WICHITA, Kan. – After a week off, we’re back with the Tuesday Takeaways, but shorthanded with Samantha Hoffmann anchoring our all-star coverage.

From the major storylines from the ECHL’s first half to how not to handle a crisis situation,  this week in minor league hockey whets your appetite in headline news.

Now, let’s get after it!

Two Major Storylines from the ECHL’s First Half

With the ECHL just past the all-star game, it’s as good of a time as any to look back at two major storylines from the ECHL’s first half.

The first storyline exists at the league’s eastern-most point in Newfoundland, where Ryan Clowe and John Snowden have led the expansion Newfoundland Growlers to the third-best record in the ECHL, 27-11-2-0 (56 points) and a seven-point lead in the North Division. While the Growlers have a full complement of veterans; James MelindyZach O’BrienKyle Cumiskey, and Adam Pardy; they have quite a stable of rookies, with 11 having played more than 20 games this season. The depth of the Maple Leafs system is quite impressive, and it appears the Growlers have all the pieces in place to make a deep playoff run in their inaugural season.

The other storyline is in the western conference, where the Allen Americans had a horrible first half of the season. The problems started in early November when their offensive leader, Casey Pierro-Zabotel was sidelined indefinitely with an upper-body injury and snowballed thanks to the combination of additional injuries, inconsistent and sloppy play, and suspensions. However, there are signs the Americans may be shaking off the bad start. Allen has points in six straight starts and 6-2-2-0 in their last 10 games. Steve Martinson has kept retooling the roster with recent additions of Curt Gogol, Emerson Clark and Etienne Boutet and more moves likely before March 8th’s ECHL Trade Deadline. When combined with the seasons Zach Pochiro and Alex Breton have had, there is no doubt that Allen will make plenty of noise on who rounds out the top four in the ECHL’s Mountain Division.

Our Three Starts of the Week

★ – Mark MacMillan – Wichita Thunder: MacMillan collected six points over the weekend. He had three assists on Friday night and recorded three more points (2G, 1A) on Saturday including the game-winner in overtime. He has points in three-straight games (3G, 4A).

★★ – Sean Bonar – Atlanta Gladiators: Bonar went 2-0-0 with one shutout, a 0.50 goals-against average and a save percentage of .964 in two appearances at Greenville last week. He is tied for third in the ECHL with a .928 save percentage and is fourth with a 2.31 goals-against average.

★★★ – David Pacan – Brampton Beast: Pacan made a game-saving stop in the dying seconds in the semifinal contest between the East & Western Conference in Monday’s ECHL All-Star Classic. Enroute to All-Star MVP honors, Pacan totaled four points (1G, 3A) and winning the accuracy shooting competition by hitting four targets in six attempts.

VenuWorks Had a Chance to Be Better

The SPHL has had some big news lately which I would have been happy to write about here – the naming of Doug Price as the new commissioner or the return of Jason Price to the league. Instead, I’m writing about the early Saturday morning arrest of Evansville Thunderbolts coach Ian Moran for allegedly driving under the influence.

I’m not going to pile on Moran for what happened. The incident itself needs to make its way through the legal system. Personally, I’m glad nobody was hurt and I hope Moran takes the experience and makes positive decisions going forward.

In cases like Moran’s, organizations have one of two decisions to make – either address the issue directly and empower people to make positive changes in their lives, or simply sweep it under the rug and hope people have short memories. Unfortunately, the ownership of the Thunderbolts decided on the latter.

According to local news reports, the Thunderbolts organization gave Moran a one-week suspension. The slap on the wrist is a slap in the face to anyone whose lives have been tragically affected by someone who made the decision to get behind the wheel of a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Let me make my point perfectly clear: Moran made a mistake, and I compassionately forgive him while hoping he makes the appropriate actions going forward to make certain he never makes the same mistake again.

Coaching a professional hockey team at any level is an extremely stressful job, and seeing your efforts result in a 4-24-2 season only compounds the pressure. As Moran’s employer, VenuWorks’ actions appear to be enabling past behavior, rather than encouraging a positive change. A compassionate employer, or a true team player, would recognize this and give Moran the time off he needs to reflect and take positive actions. Instead, Moran gets thrown back into the grinder after a week.

Our Three Stars for Week 14

★ – Alexander Taulien – Macon Mayhem: Taulien blew up this weekend in Evansville for five goals, one being on the power play and two game winners.

★★ – Stephen Klein – Peoria Rivermen: Klein picked up his third straight shutout on Friday night against Quad City and set the new SPHL record in not allowing a goal over his last 209:29 in net… and counting.

★★★ – Christian Powers – Huntsville Havoc: Powers paced the Havoc’s perfect six-point weekend with four goals, two assists, and a plus-seven rating while tallying two game-winners.

Please consider becoming a Patron as a way to say thanks and support us for what we do! https://www.patreon.com/thesinbinhockey