WICHITA, Kan. – Welcome to Tuesday Takeaways…on a Wednesday. This week, we look at discipline in the AHL, averting disaster in Allen & hand out stars for the first quarter of the SPHL season.
Let’s get started!
A New World Record
Most hockey fans know that holiday team means only the best thing ever – Teddy Bear Tosses! Many teams across the ECHL, American Hockey League and Southern Professional Hockey League – and junior teams – host one or more teddy bear toss nights, and fans attending the game excitedly post their hauls days in advance across all social platforms, while encouraging others to do so, too. The Hershey Bears have previously held the AHL’s record at 25,017, which they collected in 2017, but they were able to significantly surpass both this record and the world record this past weekend, amassing an astounding 34,798 stuffed animals to be donated to local hospitals. While the kids are the real winners here, what the Hershey Bears have done and continue to do each year with their toss is absolutely inspiring.
Did someone ask for teddy bears!?! @rileybarber94 wants to see them! Power play goal for @TheHersheyBears! Game tied 1-1#TeddyBearToss #Hershey30KChallenge #HBH #HersheyBears #DefendTheDen @CapsOutsider pic.twitter.com/VW3vgck8eS
— Cory Lyons (@CoryLyonsAHL) December 2, 2018
AHL Three Stars of the Week
★ – Teddy Bear Toss – Hershey Bears – A new world record, and tens of thousands of happy children who will be receiving a new friend just in time for the holidays. Thank you so much to the fans and personnel of the Hershey Bears for continuing to make such an amazing difference – and to all other teams who host a Teddy Bear Toss in any capacity.
★★ – Erik Condra – Texas Stars – Four goals, four assists, three games. Condra recorded a new career high on Sunday, recording five points (two goals, three assists) in the Stars’ win against a struggling Chicago Wolves team.
★★★ – AHL Discipline – The American Hockey League announced on Tuesday that it suspended Dennis Gilbert of the Rockford IceHogs for three games for his illegal hit to the head on MacKenzie MacEachern, who left the game and did not return.
Here’s a video of the hit on MacEachern. As you can see, the principal point of contact is his head – yet no penalty was assessed for the hit. pic.twitter.com/Z6dbI7eCWw
— Sin Bin Wolves (@SinBinWolves) December 2, 2018
While the refs during the game did not issue a penalty for what was clearly head contact, the AHL took supplemental action against the player for this hit. As a whole, the AHL has been doing a robust job this season in protecting its players.
Allen Averts Disaster
If you were outside the fandom spheres of Wichita and Allen, then you missed the scuttlebutt regarding the Allen Americans signing former enforcer Alex Penner for a recent weekend stint against the Wichita Thunder.
In case you need a refresher on Penner’s work, here he is in action during a brawl against the Fort Worth Brahmas in 2013.
The 35-year-old has been working as a boilermaker since retiring from the game, has not strapped on a pair of skates since 2017 and hasn’t been in a fight since 2015.
Our Allen Americans correspondent, Barry Janssen, reported the former Americans forward did indeed have a contract signed with the club and he was ready to make his return by all indications, but a funny thing happened on the way to the rink. One, ECHL Vice President of Hockey Operations, Joe Ernst, decided to take in the games and two, Allen Americans management stopped head coach Steve Martinson from submitting the contract to the league.
If Penner had played, the signing would have had ramifications in the Allen locker room and across the league.
From the Allen perspective, imagine if you were a ninth, tenth or 11th forward trying to crack the lineup. With all the injuries Allen had prior to the weekend set, you most likely would have played. By inserting Penner into the lineup, everyone gets shoved down a rung on the depth chart, because, you’re not going to bring in a ringer only to sit him, right? Further, it also sends the signal to the players in the room that settling scores takes a higher priority than developing good habits, building on positives, and working out of the hole you’re in. The popular phrase “time and place” rings true here.
On the league level, the signing of Penner would have set a dangerous standard. If teams are not worried about players getting significant suspensions, paying heavy fines, then why not bring in someone for a one-off just to raise hell and sell tickets? Such a mindset would have a significant risk to player safety and would have put the league in a bad light.
ECHL Three Stars of the Week
★ – Scott Pooley – Newfoundland Growlers – Scored four goals and added an assist for five points in a pair of victories against Brampton last week. Pooley is third among ECHL rookies with 21 points and tied for third among first-year players with 10 goals in 23 games this season.
★★ – Mitch Gillam – Worcester Railers – Went 3-0-0 with a 1.64 goals-against average and a save percentage of .951 in three appearances last week. In 11 appearances this season, Gillam is 5-6-2, is tied for fifth in the ECHL with a .925 save percentage and ranks 15th with a 2.55 goals-against average.
★★★ – J.C. Campagna – Fort Wayne Komets – Campagna continued his torried scoring pace this past week, adding another three goals to the mix as Fort Wayne continued their march up the Central Division standings. Since joining the Komets in a trade with Allen, Campagna has 11 goals and an assist.
Announcing our Three Stars for the First Quarter
We’ve hit the quarter mark of the 2018-19 season, and it’s time to announce our three stars for the season to date. After a season where the scorers reigned supreme, we’re seeing the netminders make a comeback this year. In this list of top performers, two are goaltenders who have gotten off to hot starts in the pipes.
★ – Mavric Parks (G-Birmingham) – The Birmingham Bulls rode Parks heavily during their season-opening 11-game winning streak, and the third-year netminder elevated his game to a higher level. The 5’10” goaltender from Ontario has put up a string of huge performances, including back-to-back shutouts in November. Parks is unbeaten in ten appearances with a stellar 1.50 goals against average with an insane .954 save percentage. If Parks wins his next two decisions, he ties the league record for the longest winning streak by a goaltender.
★★ – Travis Jeke (D-Fayetteville) – The third-year defenseman from Boston College is having the best season in his pro career. Jeke has been a force on the blue line, solidifying a defensive unit which was the SPHL’s worst last season. The Pittsburgh native has 14 points (4G/10A) on the season – one point shy of his previous career scoring total. Jeke is the league’s highest-scoring defenseman this season and tied for seventh overall.
★★★ – Jordan Ruby (G-Macon) – After taking a year’s sabbatical playing in France, the 2017 Presidents Cup Playoffs MVP has picked up right where he has left off. Ruby won six straight starts – one by shutout – during the Mayhem’s nine-game winning streak. The 6’1″ backstop from Ontario is the workhorse in net for Macon, going 8-2-2 with a 1.90 goals against average with a .941 save percentage – second only to Parks. Ruby has the league lead in saves with 368 stops.