SAVANNAH, GA – Professional hockey is a tough sport both mentally and physically. This ECHL season, as with all, every team has experienced both highs and lows. However, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to use today to focus on some of the highlights of every team in the ECHL. This is one thing to love about every ECHL hockey club.
Florida Everblades: No Kelly Cup Hangover
If anyone was worried about the Kelly Cup Hangover with this club, they can put that to rest. The Everblades are in February and still sit atop the South Division standings as the number one seed. They also have not ended a month with a losing record. Although they are 1-2-2 so far this month, they still have six more games and plenty of time to make up ground.
South Carolina Stingrays: A Dominant Power Play
South Carolina owns the top power play in the ECHL at 26 percent. The next closest teams are Newfoundland and Idaho at 24 percent each. The South Carolina power play has been so utterly dominant that seven separate players on the current roster have 10-plus points on the power play alone, with Josh Wilkins leading the charge at nine goals and nine helpers on the man advantage.
Jacksonville Icemen: Ara Nazarian’s Jacksonville Tenure
Nazarian has been playing professional ice hockey since the 2019-2020 season when he began his career in Adirondack. Since then, he has been an Iceman for life (outside of AHL call ups). In fact, out of his 223 career professional games he has spent 155 of them in Jacksonville. In Jacksonville alone he has 118 career points with 51 goals and 67 assists; In all other career pro games, in Adirondack and Rochester (AHL), he has 14 goals and 11 assists totaling 35 points. When people ask what is synonymous with Jacksonville ice hockey, you would be hard pressed not to find someone pointing out number 22.
Atlanta Gladiators: Anson Carter & Alex Campbell
The new ownership in Atlanta swooped in and started Atlanta hockey off this season with a bang. Most people know Carter from his illustrious NHL and broadcasting career, but Carter and Campbell have long been focused on strengthening Georgia hockey and are focused on growing the sport in every aspect. One of the ways they have set out to do this is through boosting their collegiate fans. They have partnered with Legion 404 to provide discounted rates to gameday experience and are looking to revamp their booster and kid’s clubs. They are also looking to provide the best show they can as well as honor the Atlanta hockey roots with things such as Thrashers’ night. People in Atlanta are excited for this new ownership group, and for good reason. It looks like Atlanta may be in good hands for the foreseeable future.
Greenville Swamp Rabbits: Ryan Bednard
A familiar face for Swamp Rabbits fans, Bednard has spent the majority of his ECHL career in Greenville. However, he did not spend last season with the Rabbits, nor did he start this year off on the Greenville roster. In December, the Swamp Rabbits made a trade with the Wheeling Nailers to get Bednard back home in the swamp. This year for Greenville he has posted a 2.59 GAA and .923 save percentage, third in the league, but number one in Greenville’s fans hearts.
Savannah Ghost Pirates: The Fans…And Also Vincent Marleau
It has been no surprise the Ghost Pirates’ inaugural season has been marred with highs and lows like no other. At times it has felt like this is the best hockey club to ever play in the league, and other times it is the worst. The one consistent thing, however, has been fan presence. Savannah has boasted a 6,816 attendance average, and the city has been behind the team every game, win or lose. Without them, Savannah would be just another ECHL club, but with them, this has been an extremely special year.
Honorable mention goes to Marleau, who currently leads his club in goals and is on a six-game home goal streak, which leads the ECHL. Marleau has consistently provided this Savannah offense something to build on night after night, and he does not look like he will be slowing down any time soon.
Orlando Solar Bears: Michael Brodzinski
Whoever said a defenseman could not play consistent offense has obviously never met Brodzinski. Third in the league in point production by a blue-liner, Brodzinski is a threat any time he touches the ice, with six goals and 30 assists on the year. His blue line control makes him a dangerous asset on the power play, and he is currently on pace to break his career highs in offensive production this year.
Newfoundland Growlers: Their Continued Dominance
They are the most consistent team in the league, successful year after year. You can always expect a good playoff run from them. It helps that the Toronto Leafs/Marlies organization is built from NHL down, but that does not take away from how well-coached this team is and how they play night in and night out.
Worcester Railers: Their Hot Start
The Railers went 9-0 to begin the season, breaking an ECHL record, and didn’t lose two games in a row until December. They have fallen a bit short of where they want to be lately, but that hot start keeps them right in the playoff push as the season winds down.
Reading Royals: Performance Under Changes
They’re doing extremely well under a new head coach and a mostly new roster. They had nine returnees from last season’s squad, with only four of those on ECHL contracts. Of those four, only two remain (Mike Chen and Shane Sellar).
Maine Mariners: The Number of Returnees
Head Coach Terrence Wallin must be doing something right. 18 skaters played at least one game for Maine in both this season and last. Of those, 12 remain on the roster, with an additional four currently in the AHL with Providence (Kyle Keyser, Eduards Tralmaks, Alex Olivier-Voyer, Patrick Shea).
Adirondack Thunder: Shuffling the Deck
Head Coach Pete MacArthur has brought in numerous guys to fill holes in the roster, and most of them have been major assets, most notably Grant Jozefek (11 goals, 18 assists in 40 games) and Travis Broughman (seven goals, 16 assists in 21 games). It is always hard to plug holes in a roster mid-season, but Adirondack has been successful thus far.
Trois-Rivières Lions: Home Grown Talent
The Lions utilize the locals when filling gaps in their roster (22 total originally from Quebec on the roster so far this season, 39 Canadians in all). It is always nice to see an ECHL club utilize local talent like this as it builds the game and the team’s foothold in the city.
Norfolk Admirals: Hockey-Family Connection
It has been a tough year for Norfolk, with little to write home about. However, Tanner Schachle had a feel-good story that surpasses hockey and touches more on the human level. When Norfolk visited Adirondack back in January, Schachle got to play in his dad’s old barn (and picked up an assist). His father Trent played for the Adirondack IceHawks (UHL) from 1999-2002, and Tanner called Glens Falls home during that time. Definitely a heartwarming moment worthy of some Valentine’s Day love.
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