What We Learned About the SPHL Challenge Round Selection Show

responsive_web_logo.jpg

When the SPHL came up with their Challenge Round before their season, it created a lot of buzz about the idea overall and how it could be pulled off. On Sunday night, it was put to the task and, honestly, went off with flying colors. The concept, the broadcast, the production– in my eyes– all great and a great way for the SPHL to really put themselves out there as a league.

They broadcast opened with a hot crowd in Huntsville while the Challenge Round montage began. It was a welcome sight to see  Eli Gold and Terry Crisp as MCs, two guys who have a history of hockey, especially with Gold being the play-by-play guy for the Birmingham Bulls– which means he’s seen the league in a big way this season. Gold also worked for the Nashville Predators alongside Crisp– who is still with the team.

Gold made sure to talk about history of the challenge round in hockey in other countries like Switzerland and Austria, while also putting over the SPHL in creating a widespread buzz of this concept across the North America sporting landscape. Gold also mentioned how game-changing the SPHL has been by starting three-on-three OT to North American hockey.

Onto the actual picks by the teams. Gold explained some of the reasoning that teams could have for picks and then went off to say how a lot of teams didn’t have their real home-ice due to scheduling. It went then into  a video montage of what the league is about for outliers who may be tuning into the show.

Now– the picks. Peoria as the first seed was first pick and they kept it a 1/8 match-up picking the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs. This is an interesting match-up because neither team will have their home-ice. Roanoke will play at Liberty University, while Peoria will have to go to their practice rink. Second pick, the Macon Mayhem decided to switch it up a bit, as they will play the sixth seeded Evansville Thunderbolts, believing in a better match-up against them than Mississippi, while the third seed Pensacola went with the fifth seed Knoxville Ice Bears, leaving Huntsville with the seventh seed Mississippi.

Overall…not too much over-the-top as some would have predicted, but it did cause for a bit of drama when it came to who would pick who and why. The idea is a solid one and the broadcast was a nice added touch to help those who didn’t know much about the SPHL going into it.

This could get some more eyes on the league if there are some upsets in this first round. It always creates that mentality of the top-ranked team having to really hold serve and justify their pick, while the underdog can have the feeling of a team picking them because they were thought to be weak, but now have to turn the tables to make it right.

Minor League Monday: Baby Pens Rolling, Pat Nagle’s Dominance, RiverKings Looking For Crown

AHL

22550028_10154821926531384_5151537046922125708_n

-It’s about time to talk about the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. With only one shootout loss in their last 11 games, the Baby Pens are the class of the AHL so far this year. The interesting part is that there’s not one Penguin in the top-20 in scoring. That said, Daniel Sprong has been great this season with nine goals in 14 games. After major shoulder surgery kept him out most of last season, his first full pro campaign has been off to a good start. Casey DeSmith has also been a great find for the Penguins, going 8-0-1 this season and in the top-five in GAA and save percentage.

-The Chicago Wolves are feeling the expansion crunch. While they have some players still from the St. Louis Blues, the Wolves do have the majority of Vegas Golden Knights prospects– though they are not the top of prospects. Sure, it doesn’t help that both goalies were plucked from Chicago to get into Vegas and they had to scramble to get Kasimir Kaskisuo from Toronto to make sure they had someone to play. The play of quadruple-A player Teemu Pulkkinen has been one of the small bright spots, but unless Maxime Legace or Oscar Dansk come back soon– it could be a huge uphill climb from the basement for the Wolves.

ECHL

GS17Nagle2.jpg

-Pat Nagle is continuing his solid play in the ECHL, but this time it’s with the Toledo Walleye. After signing with the Grand Rapids Griffins this summer, Nagle was assigned to Toledo and since then, hasn’t lost in regulation. With a 10-0-2 record to start the season, Nagle is filling the void that was left when Jake Paterson was not given a qualifying offer. It’s hard to say that Nagle hasn’t been the top ECHL goalie over the past four years, as he is 93-29-17-4 since the start of the 2014-15 season, which includes playoffs.

-In a very top-heavy South Division, the South Carolina Stingrays are possibly the underappreciated team of the top-four. With points in eight of their last 10, the Stingrays have gotten it done in every way possible. The return of Jeff Jakaitis hasn’t been as great as his record shows, while having him post a 5-1-1 record, his GAA and save percentage are among the worst in the league (3.13/.884). However, Steven Whitney and Nick Johnson has created the goals with six a piece, while Joe Devin and Kelly Zajac have provided the set-ups.

SPHL

22687789_10156146821963968_7675369525938335444_n

-Quietly, the Mississippi RiverKings are putting together a great start to their season. Tied for first in the league, the 7-2-0 RiverKings have gotten contribute from all-around, especially from the newcomer Donald Olivieri, who has three goals in his three games with Mississippi. Both Devin Mantha and Derek Sutliffe lead the team with four goals a piece, while Tyler Green is 5-1-0 and tied for wins in the league.