Regicide Happens in Manchester; Monarchs Cease Operations

Photo via Manchester Monarchs Twitter

With the Manchester Monarchs folding up shop, it can looked at either one of two ways. One way is that it’s a failure of ownership to adjust to the changing landscape of entertainment and couldn’t maintain an audience. Another way is that a league change wasn’t received well and the only form of protest fans knew was to not show up.

For me, it’s combination of both because the ownership couldn’t handle was what going on and people in the community couldn’t find themselves to put money towards a team that didn’t seem to be getting better. Not only that, but dropping down to a lower-league, though there’s talent in that league, didn’t sit well with fans who were coming off their first and only Calder Cup in the AHL, only to see that team move west to Ontario.

There is some kind of bitterness I could understand with a team moving down a level of play. Some people were very happy with their AHL standing and the move to the ECHL was one that could be represented as a shot at the community not being good enough rather than a logistical thing for the LA Kings to bring their affiliate closer. What they may not have realized is that the team they were getting had been on a four-season streak of 40-plus wins. It was all about status.

Attendance dropped by 1,000 people in that first season and never rebounded. That said, the last few years in the AHL were middling at best given outside influence in life and money being tight everywhere. Regardless, the drastic drop could have been due to the league change, but the team charging the same price for the team they did in a higher level– I don’t have that access to the books.

Plus, it’s not like this team was horrible– they put together over 37 wins each season they were there, made the playoffs each of the four seasons, and had plenty of things going for them in terms of prospects just starting out so people could get in on the ground floor. But it wasn’t the AHL.

In comparison, the other teams who were moved out east found some kind of success in the move– Adirondack has grown by almost 1,000 people a game in those four seasons, though they hit a downturn when they moved to ECHL. Norfolk had plenty of rumors about their future with the declining attendance, but have gotten back to over 3,500 fans a game for a non-playoff team; but also dealt with a drastic hit from the move and ownership quarrels.

Yet, how were they able to survive and keep on going despite the move and other rumors and shake-ups?? Was it understanding the market better and adjusting?? Was it the fans actually really trying to give it an honest shot at a lower level?? How come Manchester didn’t do what was needed to survive??

To say that “ECHL hockey is not viable in Manchester” is a giant cop-out and a shot to the community of Manchester who actually supported the Monarchs through it all. On top of that, it seems that the ECHL gets painted badly due to the fact that a team that was so successful in attendance a league higher couldn’t make it a league below. Probably not many people thinking that if they’re following along, but from the far outside it could look bad overall for the league to be not looked as exciting enough for a former AHL championship city to be a viable area for ECHL hockey.

In the end, maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder. One place that maybe prospective Manchester hockey revivalist could look towards is Worcester. The AHL Sharks were a team that had its ups and down, but had a decent showing before they moved out west to become the Barracuda. After two seasons offs, the ECHL Railers came into town and have topped the 4,000-plus a night their first two seasons. That’s an ownership group who did their homework, looked at the area, and adjust accordingly to be successful off the ice, with the on-ice product learning the ropes of the ECHL and hovering the .500 mark.

Manchester can be a good hockey town. History has shown us that. It’s just a matter of the fans not feeling entitled to just having the AHL and the ownership group being smarter with the product they are trying to sell to the area.

Welcome the St. John’s Brimleys….err…Growlers

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While it wasn’t much of a secret, the St. John’s ECHL team made it official on Tuesday, as they will be named the Growlers as they enter into the 2018-19 season. Hockey will be back at The Rock with presumably the Toronto Maple Leafs as the primary affiliate– though nothing official on that has been brought forward.

The logo, as you can see, is an angry Newfoundland dog. That seems a bit oxymoronic given the loving nature of these creatures. However, there is a tie-in to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, as the logo was inspired by the mascot for the RNR in World War I, Sable Chief. Given the historically nature behind it, I feel bad for saying it looks a little like Wilford Brimley, but not bad enough to stop making that comparison.

As the second Canadian team in the league and third all-time, the Growlers are going to have a lot to manage, especially with being the furthest team east by over 1,200 miles. When Scott Wheeler did his piece about the Brampton Beast’s travels (PAYWALL BLOCK), you can only imagine how hellish the Growlers’ road trips are going to be. Also, after years of being in the AHL– how will the fan base receive the team. Will they be happy enough just to have a hockey team there to support it or will they feel like they could have gotten a QMJHL team and resent the team?? Time will tell, but I believe the former will be a lot more of a result than the latter.

Puck drops October 12th for the Growlers, as they play the Eastern Conference champions (and waiting for the Kelly Cup to start) Florida Everblades at Mile One Centre.

One In, One Out for ECHL in 2018-19

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So, some stuff happened on Tuesday that changed the face of the ECHL. It was the welcoming of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador to the fold, while also saying goodbye to one of the most notable minor league franchises in the past couple decades in Quad City.

I’ll address the latter first in saying that while it’s not great for the fans, but it’s better to do it this way than to actually keep struggling monetarily and missing out on players that could make the team better. Losing almost a million dollars a season, owner Jordan Melville reached a breaking point– which was partly personally, as well according to Bobby Metcalf of the Quad City Times. Now, the TaxSlayer Center is saying they’d like the area to have hockey and have looked into some options. Obviously, the proximity of Peoria would make the SPHL an interesting choice for Quad City, but only time will tell if the fans would take a lower level of hockey to their area. It’ll be a helluva thing to lose the Mallards– who had success on the UHL, CHL, and onto the ECHL levels, but hockey is a business when all is said and done. This was strictly business.

As far as the St. John’s thing goes…I don’t understand it. Sure, it’s a hockey mad area that was left with nothing with the St. John’s IceCaps left for Laval after last season. But for a team to be almost 1,300 miles from their closest rival is a strain on the pocketbooks for sure. Plus, despite the quality of hockey being better than it has ever been– maybe some people won’t be as hyped up about AA hockey coming to town in a city that has success in the AHL. The QMJHL didn’t do well after the St. John’s Maple Leafs left and only last three seasons. I’m uneasy for the lower level of hockey playing in St. John’s.

That said, a second Canadian team can only help the ECHL and maybe the fans in St. John’s rallying behind it could make it a bigger success than many people could believe– myself included. The big issues will be if owner Dean MacDonald and executive Glenn Stanford will be able to deal with all the things to do in order to bring up a team in time for this October. It may seem like a long time away, but it’ll happen sooner than expected. Unlike Portland, who had over a year to make their team a reality, St. John’s is very much under the gun.

It’ll be an interesting look for the ECHL, which is really moving towards a very Northeastern field with the addition of St. John’s and the removal of Quad City and Colorado (moving to the AHL) after this season.

Maryland Pro/Developmental Report: 02.20.18

A couple of big moves since our last Maryland Developmental Update. Whether it be first call-ups or first goals, it’s been an eventful almost three months for the Maryland hockey prospects. We’ll start off first with the call-up:

SPHL/ECHL

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Mike Chen, Knoxville Ice Bears/South Carolina Stingrays (Rockville): 6g, 19a, +6 (with Knoxville): A tremendous start to his career, Chen earned his first call-up to the ECHL on Monday. With 25 points in 40 games, Chen led all rookie defensemen in points, while also being third in points for Knoxville and second on the team in power play scoring with 11 points (3g, 8a) with the extra man.

AHL

Sam Anas, Iowa Wild (Potomac): 18g, 22a, 4 GWG: Talk about a boost in the last two months, Anas has been fantastic. After a ten-game points-streak and six-game goal-scoring streak in December, Anas has continued through to be one of the top contributors in Iowa’s line-up. With a playoff push coming up and a bigger role, expect Anas to really show up in a big way for Derek Lalonde’s bunch.

Nick Ellis, Bakersfield Condors (Millersville): 8-9-2, 3.23 GAA, .897 Sv%: Rookie woes have gotten to Ellis after a hot start. Though he got called up to Edmonton, he saw no playing time and was returned to Bakersfield, where Laurent Brossoit has gotten a hefty share of starts since. With Brossoit called up, Ellis could be seeing more playing time and hopefully get his first win since January 6th.

ECHL

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Jack Burton, Indy Fuel (Reisterstown): 2g, 6a, 47 PIMs: He may not light the lamp or burn up the scoresheet as often as he’d like, the responsibility of Burton in his own end may be a trademark going forward. At 6’3 and 210, Burton may need to be a little bulkier in order to be a lockdown defenseman, but that very well could come with time and seasoning.

Nick Sorkin, Wheeling Nailers (Rockville): 6g, 37a, +9: Sorkin has settled into the set-up role for Cody Wydo, Reid Gardiner, and Cam Brown. Not just on his team, but Sorkin’s 37 assists rank fifth in the ECHL. Sorkin also hit a personal milestone, getting his 100th professional point in his 107th game on February 12th.

Eric Sweetman, Idaho Steelheads (Woodbine): 4g, 14a, +13: Another defenseman who is finding his footing, Sweetman has gotten better as the season has gone along. Despite his 5’11 frame, Sweetman has come into his own with 12 of his 18 points (4g, 8a) coming in the 2018 calendar year.

OHL

Adam Varga, Mississauga Steelheads (Bel Air): 0g, 4a, -8: With some scratches to his name, Varga is really getting a taste of the OHL life at 16-years old. One bright spot is that Varga did get his first OHL goal on Monday, which was his second game back from over a month being out of the line-up. Here’s hoping the stretch run will help the Bel-Air prospect going into his draft year next year.

USNTDP

Patrick Giles, US National Development Program (Chevy Chase): 7g, 6a, +4: Though he was held without a point in the U17 Five Nations Cup, which the US did win, Giles did have a couple chances here and there during the tournament. A bit of a slide since starting off the new year with four points in four games (2g, 2a), the draft eligible Marylander still has plenty of time to up his stock before going off to Boston College.

NCAA

Jerad Rosburg, Michigan State (Clarksville): 0g, 8a, 54 PIMs

Matt McArdle, Lake Superior State (Odenton): 0g, 2a, 25 PIMs

Colin O’Neill, U-Mass Lowell (Odenton): 3g, 11a, 2 SHG

Jason O’Neill, Providence (Odenton): 0g, 8a, E

Bruce Racine, Colgate (Bethesda): 1-3-1, 3.57 GAA, .898 Sv%

On the Topic Of European/North American Hockey Relations

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Photo from @OntarioReign

Did you know that there as an international friendly that happened on Tuesday in Ontario?? More likely not, as there wasn’t much pomp and circumstance on the grand scheme of things, but the Ontario Reign took on Eisbaren Berlin on Tuesday, with Ontario cruising to a 6-3 win in front of  over 8,700 fans– according to the Ontario Reign.

Looking at the highlights from their Twitter, the Berlin fans who were in attendance really made it for a European feel of chanting and constant energy throughout the game. However, it didn’t seem to get much of a ground swell outside of the Ontario and Berlin community. Hell, this is the first time since 2014 when Farjestad took on the AHL All-Stars and then the Toronto Marlies that international teams took on North American teams during the regular season– as far as I know, that is.

There’s something to be said about the idea of international teams coming to North America to play against AHL teams, something more to be said when it has to deal with the AHL squads beating those international teams. Sure, the teams coming over may not bring their best line-up, especially since those teams are also in season. However– wouldn’t it be something to see more of these international friendlies and actually have them promoted by outside media sources in order to garner a little more appeal?? Of course it would, we all love hockey and getting to know more teams outside of the North American bubble would be a nice change of pace for some people.

When it comes to something like this, there’s two ways to go about it. First, get more teams active in forming a sister cities approach to international teams. Have each AHL or ECHL team adopt a European team and keep track that way. While it would be much harder to get the ECHL team to agree to it since they often have players defect to Europe to play, the idea could be there for the AHL by the parent organizations to almost compare ideas of coaching and playing styles and all that fun crap. It may be a hard-sell, but something that could be done. Ontario and Berlin came together if only because The Anschutz Group owns both teams.

The second way to go about it is to find a way to have more international tournaments for the minor league teams to participate in. While the Spengler Cup is a tournament that once in a blue moon invites AHL teams to their party (mainly the Rochester Americans), there needs to be more ideas.

One could be the idea of putting the Calder Cup champions in the Champions Hockey League. Yes, it could create havoc on scheduling, but to have a North American representation would be a big boost for the North American game and get people more invested in the European side of things. But, like I said, the schedule in Europe allows a lot more leeway for the teams to play in their country league and the Champions’ league– so many North American leagues would be pretty hard pressed to have involvement, but at the same time– one can dream about it.

There’s untapped potential when it comes to having European teams come over to North America more frequently and vice versa. The hardest point is to actually find a way to make it happen logistically and not just force down people’s throat like an outdoor game we’ve seen time and time again. You need to have it frequent enough to make people want to see it, but infrequent enough that you don’t over-saturate the marketplace.

Sadly, hockey marketing teams everywhere have yet to figure out that balance. So it goes. The dream is alive, but sleep hard before it becomes a reality.

McKenna’s Departure Leaves Wide-Open Field for ECHL…and Maybe Me Taking Over

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On Wednesday, the ECHL announced that commissioner Brian McKenna was stepping down from his post following the 2017-18 season. McKenna has been in that spot for 16 years and has seen the growth of the ECHL from a league where it was very few prospects and many guys on their last legs to a legit developmental league where many NHL teams place their young guns when the AHL is too full or they feel the player would be better served in a league that helps adjust to the pro game.

McKenna has seen some ups and downs, sure, but it’s been a very net gain for what McKenna has grown. The league absorbed the WCHL and CHL in his tenure, while also seeing steady growth amongst stable membership and making head-way from the West Coast to the Northeast corridor in the last couple seasons after the AHL went to their West Coast footprint. His ability to help the league geographically has been a solid work, too. Kudos for what he has done.

There has been no replacement as of yet, but I’m going to suggest one person who I think would be great for this job.

Scotty Wazz.

That’s right, I’m officially throwing my hat in the ring for the ECHL Board of Governors to look at when it comes to hiring their new commissioner. I know that I may not have the qualifications a normal applicant would have, but my knowledge of hockey and the business of minor league hockey could be something that should be looked at. Add that to actually seeing the fan reaction and taking those into account when talking and posting about what the league could/should/would do in different situations.

Now, let’s be honest, I’m not even in the running. The idea of a blogger/podcaster to be in such a high position is more a publicity gimmick and for a league as legitimate as the ECHL wouldn’t stoop to something so silly. Yet…there’s always a chance until there isn’t one.

I dealt first with the ECHL when the Chesapeake Icebreakers were a thing in the late 1990s, being the stickboy and around the team for a while– I saw the passion these guys had for the league and saw a lot of people outside of the players doing as much as they can in order to get to that next level. Hell, Dana Heinze is a guy I remember unloading the Johnstown Chiefs’ bus and now he’s got a couple Stanley Cup rings in Tampa and Pittsburgh.

While the business on the ice is at its top point, there’s still room to figure out what’s going to happen off the ice is still there and how to make all the teams successful. Not just the team they ice, but what they actually have in terms of other entertainment to help the fans during the stoppages in play. When I spoke with Brampton Beast President and General Manager Cary Kaplan, he said that the team didn’t market hockey, they marketed entertainment. I’d suggest going to all the member teams rinks, holding a “town hall” of sort for the boosters, fans, season ticket members– whomever– and see what’s working and what’s not working off the ice. From the in-arena promotions to what’s happening (or not happening) outside of the arena and into the cities. Adjust and adapting marketing projects could be integral to a team surviving and folding.

The ECHL is grass-roots hockey with a little bit of corporate flare. While you need the corporate side of things to keep the lights on, you also need the community support. In fact, the community support could be the biggest thing needed because sure– a team could have top of the line facilities, but if they don’t have a solid base for a support staff around them…they aren’t going to make it anywhere.

Granted, there’s some other ideas I have, but I haven’t really planned it all out. It’s a work in progress as we push towards Scotty Wazz as commissioner for the ECHL after the 2017-18 season.

….and if not commissioner, some kind of fan relations liaison to present to the Board every now and again to see what is working and what isn’t.

Minor League Weekly: Puempel Powering Griffins, LaValle-Smotherman on Fire, SPHL MVP Contenders

AHL

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Photo by Icon Sportswire

-It’s taken the Grand Rapids Griffins a while to get going, but with points in eight of their last ten games– they’ve regained their championship form. A lot of that success is due in part to the play of Matt Puempel, who’s in the midst of a nine-game point-streak (6g 7a), while having 40 points in 35 games with the Griffins and putting Puempel fourth in the AHL in scoring. This season is looking to be Puempel’s best in the AHL. With 43 points (19g, 24a) already this season, Puempel is only five points away from tying his AHL high, which he set in his rookie season of 2013-14 with the Binghamton Senators.

-When it comes to Thatcher Demko, it’s a matter of when he’ll get the full-time call-up to the Vancouver Canucks. His play this season has been stellar (17-7-5, 2.27 GAA, .929 Sv%) and will give the Canucks an interesting move late in their season– whether to call him up to get some NHL playing time, as he’ll luckily move into that role next season– or will they allow him to stay with Utica for the rest of the season and get a taste of a playoff run??

ECHL

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-Since the turning of the calendar, Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman has turned on his game big time with 11g, 12a in 14 games in 2018. The Monarchs forward has been on quite the roll with multi-point games in six of his last season, which has quietly put him in second spot for league leaders in points (52) and second in the league in goals (26). Not bad for a guy getting back into the North American game full-time after traveling around Europe from 2011 until towards the end of the 2016-17 season.

-There might be a chip in Joe Cannata’s shoulder because his play right now is really telling the Colorado Avalanche he wants to be promoted. The minor-league vet is 16-2-1 with a 2.13 GAA and .934 Sv%, which puts him 2nd and 1st respectively in the league. After years of being in the AHL– whether it being the veteran back-up or the stop-gap veteran– he’s in the ECHL full-time for the first time since 2014-15. With a championship team in front of him, he could be marking his way for when the Eagles move up to the AHL next season.

SPHL

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-While Jake Hauswirth has had a great season– it’s going to be hard-pressed for him to go ahead and win the MVP on a non-playoff team. For me, Berkley Scott could be the front-runner, especially with the month he just had in January (9g, 7a)–which earned him Player of the Month honors. Tomas Shall should also get some kind of recognition for the year he’s had with Evansville thus far with a 14-2-2 record, while ranking top-five in GAA and save percentage.

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

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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

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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

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-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.

ECHL Reveal 2019 All-Star Classic Format and It’s….Something

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A day after they held their 2018 All-Star Classic, the ECHL went ahead and revamped their All-Star Classic for 2019, showing that they’re wasting not time whatsoever to get the hype train going for Toledo next year, despite other markets not being keen on hosting an All-Star Classic due to the painstaking hours off-ice that need to be done in order to put one of those things on.

In any case, the ECHL has revealed that the All-Star Classic will continue to be 3-on-3, but instead of having all four divisions represented– the Eastern and Western conference will have a team of All-Stars, while the Toledo Walleye will have two teams in the All-Star Classic competing against each other. It’s basically the dream that a lot of Canadian hockey fans have when it comes to having two Canadian National teams in the Olympics or World Juniors.

Firstly, to announce this more than 365 days before the event happens seems a little….odd?? You’re just coming off an All-Star Classic and you’re already forgetting about that event and just pushing forward with the plans for next year?? You’d think that they’d want to announce it during the off-season when there is no news and actually have people talk a little bit about this during the dog days of the off-season.

Secondly, what sense does it make to make to kill more roster spots for All-Stars by taking away two whole division spots?? Is it because of the call-ups?? Is it because some guys didn’t want to go?? It just seems silly for a situation like this to happen when you’re trying to display the entire league’s stars– but you end up showing off one team and a select amount of stars on the world stage. It was one thing when the ECHL had the host team play against the full amount of All-Stars, but this seems very odd to split one of those teams up and then have them play against each other.

More over, you just had a game where because of call-ups and some oversight, a lot of the top scorers in the league weren’t in attendance. Call-ups are the nature of the business, but from the on-set– when seven of the top-10 scorers are missing from the game; that’s problematic for an All-Star Classic.

Yes, I’m a curmudgeon when it comes to this because it’s not geared towards me, it’s geared toward the appeal of the community. That said, I would want this to be more entertaining than it is. The ideal of the All-Star Game is really a passe thing because we have an overabundance of access to leagues and games and everything these days– it’s not that big a necessity to have All-Star Games in any sport. I’ve always heldfast in the belief that you do a Comic-Con type of event with players available for signings and a lot more interactive festivities for the fans rather than just a game.

However, I’m just one voice in a crowd of differing opinion. And the opinion seems to be the same old song keeps works, so play on.

Minor League Weekly: Ontario Reigning Point-Streaks, Dupont Guiding Norfolk, Parks is Peoria New Hope

AHL

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-While all the Pacific teams are over .500, the Ontario Reign will need to keep digging deeper in order to keep up with the rest of the division. Lucky for them, however, they have two of the hottest scorers in the league right now. Both Mike Amadio and Jonny Brodzinski are on big points streak that rank in the top-10 for the season, with Amadio’s 16-game point streak (8g, 19a) being the longest in the AHL so far. Brodzinski isn’t a slouch, however, with a nine-game streak (6g, 8a) which is tied for 7th longest this season going into Monday’s games.

-If they’re not careful, the Springfield Thunderbirds could be a dark horse to climb up the standings and snag one of the final playoff spot in the Atlantic. The Thunderbirds are winners of seven of their last 11, including three straight heading into the new week. With their goaltending being somewhat shaky on the year, they’ll need to get a lot more support for Samuel Montembeault. While Curtis Valk is ahead in the team points, the real test will be to see how the likes of Dryden Hunt and Anthony Greco respond to a possible late-season push for the team to help support Valk and Alexandre Grenier.

ECHL

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-Despite being on a bad team, Brodie Dupont is making the most of his time in Norfolk. With 39 points in 37 games, the former New York Rangers’ prospect leads the team in points and is quietly 8th in the league. While the Admirals could make a late-season push for the playoffs, you have to wonder if someone like Dupont will be dangled out there at the trade deadline to get some prospects back and build into the future with that team. Dupont was traded last year to Greenville, only to return in the off-season.

-Since returning to Reading on December 28th, John Muse has continued his solid play for the Royals. Muse is 7-1-0 since returning, pushing his record to 13-4-1 on the season, while also ranking second amongst goalies in GAA and save percentage. The 2012 Kelly Cup Playoff MVP is coming back to the ECHL full-time for the first time since the 2012-13 campaign in Florida.

SPHL

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-It was a helluva holiday season for the Peoria Rivermen, who lost both goalies– Eric Levine and Storm Phaneuf to season-ending injuries over the holidays. Because of that, Tyler Parks has been thrown into the starting role, which has led him to an 8-2-0 record on the season and winning six of his last seven. Luckily, the Rivermen do have a solid goalie pipeline at their fingertips, which has come in handy in a situation like this. They continue to be four points behind Pensacola for top spot in the league with two games in hand.