The East Coast Hockey League drew 116,747 during its opening weekend. The first three nights of action included three hat tricks, three penalty shots, two shutouts and record crowds in Arkansas and Cincinnati.
The first night of the season saw Reading’s Brian McCullough, Greensboro’s Peter Gardiner and Charlotte’s Takahito Suzuki each record a hat trick.
McCullough scored three straight goals and the first hat trick in team history as Reading opened with a 7-3 win over Wheeling in front of 6,579 fans at the Sovereign Center.
Gardiner scored all three of Greensboro’s regulation goals including the game-tying goal with 1:43 remaining in the game. He then scored the decisive goal in the Generals’ 4-3 shootout win in front of 4,056 fans at Rupp Arena in the ECHL’s newest market in Lexington, Kentucky.
Suzuki, who became the third Japanese player in history to play in the ECHL, electrified the crowd of 6,101 at Cricket Arena as he scored three times in the second period.
Arkansas opened its season on Saturday hosting Louisiana in front of 6,429 fans, the second-largest crowd ever to watch the RiverBlades at ALLTEL Arena. Chris Taliercio scored two goals and Bobby Brown had a goal and two assists as Louisiana posted a 6-5 shootout win. Jason Bermingham and Buddy Smith each scored two goals and four points for the RiverBlades.
Cincinnati retired the uniform number of Cincinnati Reds baseball legend Pete Rose in front of a team record crowd of 7,123 on Saturday, losing 2-1 against Peoria.
Johnstown’s Dominic Forget scored on a penalty shot against Dayton’s Andrew Allen in the Chiefs’ 5-1 season-opening win on Friday. Trenton’s Adam Edinger scored the first penalty shot in Titans history during the first period of Saturday’s game against Roanoke. Edinger later scored the game-tying goal in the 3-2 shootout loss. Baton Rouge’s Glen Crawford scored the third penalty shot in as many days in the Kingfish’s 5-4 loss at Pensacola.
Scott Stirling stopped 35 shots in Atlantic City’s 3-0 win against Richmond on Saturday. Stirling tied for the ECHL lead with five regular season shutouts in 2000-01 and now has eight regular shutouts in his ECHL career.
Daniel Berthiaume, who is playing in his 16th professional season, stopped 27 shots and assisted on the final goal in a 3-0 win at Lexington on Saturday. The first shutout for Greensboro since Bujar Amidovski’s 1-0 win against Reading on October 19, 2001 helps the Generals open the season 2-0 for the first time ever in their four-year history.