Minor League Weekly: Utica Heating Up, Joe Cox Making His Mark, Final SPHL Spot Shuffling

AHL

18952689_932418113601101_768600845946290867_n.jpg

Photo by Lindsay A. Mogle / Utica Comets Facebook

-Heading into hosting the All-Star Game, the Utica Comets are amongst one of the hottest teams in the league with points in nine of their last 10 games (7-1-1-1) and four-straight wins. Even with leading scorer Reid Boucher (20g, 17a) on the shuttle from Utica to Vancouver, the Comets are still fighting in the playoff hunt. Thatcher Demko has continued to improve in the system with the Comets (16-7-5, 2.28 GAA, .929Sv%), but will need a lot of goal support to help. Despite Boucher’s 20, no other comment is in double-digits for goals. To keep their hot streak alive and hope to get a playoff berth, something will need to be done offensively to help Utica out.

-While things aren’t going great in Glendale, the Tucson Roadrunners are giving Coyotes’ fans some hope of what’s to come, mostly due to rookies Dylan Strome and Nick Merkley, who have commanded the offense for the Roadrunners in the first half of the season. While veterans Michael Bunting and Mike Sislo have helped out, the youth is being quite served– especially with Hunter Miska leading the team in wins (12-3-0), but his GAA (2.98) and save percentage (.898) leave much to be desired.

ECHL

26238930_1506450552724514_5298955267981259239_n

Photo by Florida Everblades Facebook

-One player that could be lost in the Florida Everblades season could be the second-half play, thus far, of rookie Joe Cox. The Michigan State product is on a seven-game point streak (3g, 10a) and has provided a much needed punch for the secondary scoring for the Everblades already dynamic offense. It just goes to show the time it takes players to develop, as Cox’s best season before this was in the USHL when he had 20 goals and 20 assists for the Muskegon Lumberjacks, while his junior year at MSU was his most productive with 11 goals and 23 points in 35 games. Around an All-Star line-up as he is, the protection could allow Cox to flourish throughout the rest of the season and into the playoffs.

-At the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference, the Wheeling Nailers have gotten a lot of their offensive from their first-year players. While Cody Wydo continues to be a constant, the emergence of Reid Gardner has been a welcome for the Nailers. Gardner leads the teams in goals with 21 and power-play goals with six. Couple that with another rookie in Cam Brown leading the team with 39 points (12g, 27a), the Nailers continue to churn out talent for the Penguins organization. The offensive will need to be strong, as the by-committee goaltending has a combined 3.14 GAA on the year.

SPHL

Southern_Professional_Hockey_League_logo.svg

-The race for the eighth-seed is still hot and heavy between a second-year Roanoke team who changed coaches to change fortune, the rebranded Fayetteville Marksman with one of the top players in the league in Jake Hauswirth on the team, while the expansion Birmingham Bulls are only three points out and have Mavric Parks being second in the league in minutes played and 7th in the league in save percentage (.911) despite a 3.32 GAA. When it comes to this playoff format, too, it should be interesting to see if the traditional 1st vs. 8th seed get picked because who knows how the top seed will look at these teams, who are already in playoff mode as it is.

Minor League Monday: Checkers, Gladiators Streaking Upward, Bulls Not So Much

AHL

22365268_10155525613776013_1221436353259122413_n.jpg

-It may not be because of the move to the Eastern Conference, but the Charlotte Checkers are out to one of the best starts in the AHL this season. Despite only Lucas Wallmark being in the top-20 in points, they are tied for most goals in the league. Valentin Zykov and Warren Foegele are in the top-15 in goals this season, while Alex Nedeljkovic has taken over the reigns from Jeremy Smith and has not lost a game in his seven starts yet this year.

-After missing the playoffs their first two years back into the league, the Manitoba Moose are looking to change that this year. With points in eight of their last 10 games (6-2-1-1), the Moose are atop the Central Division. After finishing up last season with 11 points in 10 games, Jack Roslovic is continuing to lead the Moose with eight goals and 17 points in the first 15 games for the Moose.

ECHL

maxresdefault

-Following an 0-4 start, the Atlanta Gladiators have woke up and put together a 7-0-0-1 record since the first four games. Phil Lane and Thomas Frazee have been a huge factor, both of whom have had a nine-game scoring streak with Frazee’s being snapped on Saturday (4g, 10a), while Lane’s (8g, 6a) continues on.

-Despite being at the bottom of the Mountain Division, the Rapid City Rush have won four-in-a-row, including a weekend sweep of the Kelly Cup champion Colorado Eagles. Kenton Miller has been the offensive leader with seven goals and 11 points, but the real question going forward is how their goaltending is going to fare. Even with Adam Vay and Steve Michalek getting the last four wins, you have to wonder if they can keep up the solid play and lower that team GAA of 3.76.

SPHL

23032504_1505631409529751_3694239080551244529_n

-The start of the revamped Birmingham Bulls is probably not what everyone thought was going to happen…or maybe it was for an expansion team. Through six games, the Bulls are winless and only have six goals for the entire season while giving up 22. If there is a bright spot, it might– oddly enough– be in their goaltending. Mavric Parks has the most saves in the SPHL and is fourth in save percentage (.914) even though he sports an 0-5-0 record.

-Pensacola is still undefeated and it’s interesting that they aren’t the top scoring team in the league. Their balanced attack has put three players in the top-10 in points (Stephen Hrehoriak, Garret Milan, Jessyko Bernard) while also having a great goaltending tandem in Sean Bonar and Greg Dodds. If they can stay healthy– they will be the class of the league once again.