WICHITA, Kan. – For the second week in a row, it’s Tuesday Takeaways…on a Wednesday. This week, we look at the youth being served in AHL, #EverRising in South Florida & a new director of officials making an impact in the SPHL.

Let’s get started!

It’s been a weird week in the American Hockey League. From a team going from a five-game losing streak to a three-game win streak, to one being held to just 10 shots on goal, one might think we’re in the Upside Down. That is, until you realize it’s the Chicago Wolves turning their season around, and the Toronto Marlies back to playing defense. Are these two preseason favorites righting the ship? There’s still a lot of hockey to be played, but fans of each have every reason to be optimistic.

Kids at Play

If you look at who some of the top scorers have been, especially this past week, you’ll notice there are a few rookies leading the pack. San Antonio’s Jordan Kyrou has worked his way up to the St. Louis Blues after posting four goals and three assists in four games, and Charlotte’s Martin Necas is making a case to re-join him soon in the NHL. The 19-year-old first round pick for the Carolina Hurricanes was named the AHL’s Player of the Week after posting seven assists in just two games for the Checkers. In more Western Conference news, defenseman Nic Hague of the Chicago Wolves has four goals in his past three games, helping power the Wolves to their first win streak in almost a month. While no rookie appears on the league’s scoring leaderboard, the uptick in offense of many young guns are proving just why the AHL’s development model works.

AHL Three Stars of the Week

★ – Brandon Pirri – Chicago Wolves – The Wolves needed someone to step up after dropping five in a row. The AHL’s leading scorer was that person, stringing together a four assist, one assist and a three-goal game to power the Wolves to a three-game winning streak and putting them back in a playoff position.

★★ –  Martin Necas  – Charlotte Checkers – Seven assists in two games (four and then three) helped power the #1 team in the AHL to two more wins this past weekend, including an overtime comeback win down two goals with a minute left in regulation.

★★★ – Toronto Marlies Defense – In what has been a major point of criticism for, well the entire Toronto organization, the Marlies defense has left something to be desired all season. Finally, it appears they’ve sorted things out in their own zone as they limited the Belleville Senators to just 10 SOG throughout the entirety of Sunday’s matchup. If the Marlies are able to keep this up, then the rest of the league might want to start panicking.

#EverRising in South Florida

Don’t look now, but the Florida Everblades have been on a tear lately and have vaulted to the top of the ECHL South Division. With Saturday’s win, the Everblades extended their season-high point streak to 11 games (9-0-2-0) to match the Toledo Walleye for the longest point streak in the ECHL this year.

During the streak, the ‘Blades have outscored their opposition 51-30, averaging 4.64 goals per game. The Blades have been offensively led by Kyle PlatzerJohn McCarron, and Joe Cox who have a combined 26 points (10G, 16A) during the run. Nathan Perkovich has equaled the ‘Blades longest goal streak with tallies in four straight games and posted four goals, two of which were game-winning goals, in three games this past weekend.

On the back end, the ‘Blades have allowed 2.72 goals per contest during the streak. They are led by netminder Jamie Phillips, who is quietly putting together another all-star caliber season. Phillips has been dominant at Hertz Arena this season and stayed undefeated at home with his sixth win in his sixth start on Saturday night. Phillips has victories in four straight starts, the longest win streak for a ‘Blades netminder this year, and has a 6-0-1-0 record (2.71 goals against average & .911 save percentage) during the team’s 11-game run.

It appears everybody else in the South is playing for second.

ECHL Three Stars of the Week

★ – Dylan Wells – Wichita Thunder – The 20-year-old rookie went 3-0-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average and a save percentage of .959 in three appearances last week. He has seen action in 11 games with the Thunder this season, going 5-3-2 with a 2.92 goals-against average and a save percentage of .913.

★★ –  Cam Brown/Nick Saracino  – Wheeling Nailers – Brown scored two goals and assisted on seven others while Saracino tallied four goals and added four assists in three games last week. Overall on the season, Brown has 17 points (4G, 13A) in 21 games, while Saracino has 22 points (9G, 11A) in 20 games for the Nailers.

★★★ – Michael Huntebrinker – Reading Royals – Huntebrinker registered four goals and five points in two games vs. Newfoundland and toppled the Growlers with back-to-back, game-winning goals. In Friday’s four-point performance (3g), he scored the game-winning goal early in the third period to complete the hat trick. Next, he put Reading up by two with a primary assist on Josh MacDonald‘s tenth goal of the season. The four points matched a career high.

Saturday, after the Growlers tied the game at three in the third, Huntebrinker responded with a man-up goal shortly after to seize the lead back for good.

McElman Making an Impact on SPHL Officiating

Andy McElman has spent over two decades in the NHL as a lineman, and his experience at the highest level of pro hockey has had an influence on the novice officials getting their start in the SPHL. McElman joined the league as director of officiating this season, and his influence has been noticeable.

Mind you, officiating a hockey game has always been an inexact science and it will always be so. The speed of the game, getting ever faster each season, makes for an impossible task for officials to get every call correct each and every time.

According to Knoxville Ice Bears coach Jeff Carr, the biggest improvement in officiating this season has been the professionalism of the officials, which he credits McElman for spearheading.

“Referees are always going to miss calls on the ice,” said Carr, “but there has been a noticeable improvement in how professional their demeanor has been and (McElman) deserves a lot of credit.”

SPHL Three Stars of the Week

★ – Jacob Barber – Birmingham Bulls – Barber scored four goals, including a hat-trick in Fayetteville on Saturday night. The second-year forward included an assist and had a plus-4 rating last week.

★★ – Keegan Asmundson – Pensacola Ice Flyers – Seeing his first SPHL action this season since winning the Presidents Cup with Huntsville, Asmundson had a split decision this weekend against Knoxville, but only allowed two goals on 52 shots faced. Asmundson went 1-1-0 with a goals against average of 1.01 and a .962 save percentage.

★★★ – Joe Widmar – Peoria Rivermen – Widmar scored a goal with an assist in both games last week, including a game-winner on Saturday against Evansville. Widmar’s plus/minus rating was a solid +4 over two games.

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