ECHL season faces off on Friday
The ECHL’s 24th season begins on Friday with eight games in six states from Florida to Alaska and continues on Saturday with 10 games in eight states.
Began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states, the ECHL has grown into a coast-to-coast league that has 20 teams in 16 states playing 720 games from Oct. 14, 2011 to March 31, 2012. The ECHL is the third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League.
Friday’s schedule is highlighted by the return of the Trenton Titans, who will take to the ice for the first time since the 2007 Kelly Cup Playoffs, when they visit Elmira. Also on Friday, the Alaska Aces will raise their second Kelly Cup championship banner in team history when they host the Las Vegas Wranglers at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage while the Colorado Eagles make their ECHL debut in Stockton against the Thunder. A South Division rivalry is renewed in Florida as the Everblades host Gwinnett in their home opener for the second consecutive season. Other games on Friday’s schedule include Reading at South Carolina, Wheeling visiting Greenville in a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals series won by the Nailers 4 games to 3, Ontario hosting Bakersfield and Idaho visiting Utah.
Saturday’s action sees four teams hosting home openers: the Toledo Walleye host Chicago as the Express take to the ice for their ECHL debut, Kalamazoo will raise its Eastern Conference championship banner at Wings Stadium against Cincinnati, Idaho takes on Utah in the back end of their home-and-home series and Bakersfield hosts Colorado.
Alaska Aces right wing Wes Goldie, the 2011-12 ECHL Most Valuable Player, enters this season on the verge of several milestones. Goldie ranks second in ECHL history with 335 career goals, trailing the all-time leader, 2009 ECHL Hall of Fame inductee Rod Taylor, by just 33 goals. Goldie has scored 33 or more goals in seven of his nine ECHL seasons, including five straight seasons of 40 or more goals, which is the longest streak in league history. Goldie’s seven seasons of 30 or more goals is the second longest streak in history, one behind Taylor.
Goldie’s 544 career ECHL points are 17th in league history entering the 2011-12 season while his 627 games played rank fifth all-time. Goldie has played in all 72 games in each of the last five seasons, and six times in his last seven ECHL seasons.
On the coaching front, Ontario Reign head coach Jason Christie returns to the league for the first time since the 2007-08 season with Utah. Christie is one of just six coaches in ECHL history to have at least 300 wins. His 307 wins are 10 behind Malcolm Cameron and Jeff Brubaker for fifth in league history.
Stockton Thunder head coach Matt Thomas has 271 wins, and needs just 29 wins to become the seventh member of the 300-win coaching club.