PRINCETON, N.J. – The ECHL on Wednesday announced that the coaches for the 2006 ECHL All-Star Game presented by Bud Light will be Davis Payne of Alaska and Glen Gulutzan of Las Vegas for the host National Conference and Karl Taylor of Reading and Jeff Pyle of Gwinnett for the American Conference.
Payne and Taylor were selected as a result of having the best winning percentage in their conference through games of Jan. 3 while Gulutzan and Pyle were chosen using a combination of winning percentage and votes from coaches within their own conference. Alaska leads the ECHL with a winning percentage of .804 (21-4-3) while Las Vegas is second in the league at .773 (24-6-3). Reading leads the American Conference and is third in the league at .750 (20-6-2) while Gwinnett is second in the American Conference and tied for fourth overall at .714 (18-6-4).
The Fresno Falcons are the host for the 2006 ECHL All-Star Skills Competition on Jan. 24 and the 2006 ECHL All-Star Game presented by Bud Light on Jan. 25. Both events will be at Save Mart Center and begin at 7 p.m. PT.
It is the third consecutive and third overall selection for Pyle and the third selection overall for Payne, tying them for the most All-Star Game selections. Pyle has represented Gwinnett in each of his three years while Payne was chosen to coach the South in the 2002 All-Star Game when he was with Pee Dee and has represented Alaska in 2004 and 2006. Pyle and Payne were together behind the Western Conference bench at the 2004 All-Star Game won by the Eastern Conference 7-6.
Taylor, who has Reading atop the American Conference with a 20-6-2 record and a .750 winning percentage, becomes the sixth first-year coach since 1996 to be selected to the All-Star Game. Current Stockton and then Arkansas coach Chris Cichocki, current Utah and then Peoria coach Jason Christie and Troy Ward of Trenton were all in their first ECHL season when they were selected for the 2001 All-Star Game as were current Fresno and then Atlantic City coach Matt Thomas in 2005 and Murray Eaves of Toledo in 1999.
Davis Payne, National Conference
Davis Payne is in his third season as head coach and president of hockey operations for the Alaska Aces. In his second season, Alaska finished first in the West Division and the National Conference with 98 points and a 45-19-8 record. The Aces made their second consecutive Kelly Cup Playoffs appearance, losing in seven games to Kelly Cup Champion Trenton after capturing the West Division postseason title with wins over Bakersfield and Long Beach. In their inaugural season, the Aces finished fourth in the division at 38-28-6 and swept regular season points champion San Diego in the division semifinals before losing to Kelly Cup Champion Idaho in the division finals. Payne was head coach and director of hockey operations for Pee Dee in the ECHL for two and a half seasons from 2000-03. With Payne behind the bench, Pee Dee was 104-67-17 in the regular season and reached the Kelly Cup Playoffs three straight seasons, advancing to the second round all three years. Selected in the seventh round (140th overall) by Edmonton in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, Payne played eight professional seasons. He began his pro career in the ECHL with the Greensboro Monarchs in 1992-93. He played for Phoenix and San Antonio of the International Hockey League and Rochester and Providence of the American Hockey League while also playing 22 games in the NHL with the Boston Bruins. He concluded his playing career as an original member of the Greenville Grrrowl of the ECHL where he played two seasons before becoming an assistant coach. Payne and his wife, Jane, live in Anchorage with their daughters, Allison and Lydia.
Glen Gulutzan, National Conference
Glen Gulutzan is in his third season as general manager and head coach of Las Vegas. Gulutzan led the Wranglers to a 31-33-8 regular season record in 2004-05 and is 98-61-18 all-time as the only coach in team history. The Wranglers were 43-22-7 and finished second in the division in their inaugural season, losing in five games to Kelly Cup Champion Idaho in the postseason. Before stepping behind the Las Vegas bench, the 34-year-old Gulutzan spent four seasons as player-assistant coach with Fresno of the West Coast Hockey League. He was named All-WCHL in 1999 and 2000 and helped the Falcons win the championship in 2002 and advance to Game 7 of the finals in 2003. Gulutzan began his professional career in 1996-97 with Fresno and had a team record 80 assists and 110 points in 60 games while also playing in the International Hockey League with Utah and Las Vegas. In addition to six seasons in Fresno, the native of The Pas, Manitoba also played in both Finland and Sweden. Glen and his wife, Nicole, live in Las Vegas with their son, Landon, and their daughters, Emma and Brielle.
Karl Taylor, American Conference
Karl Taylor is in his first season as head coach and director of hockey operations for the Reading Royals, having been named on August 22, 2005. The 34-year-old Taylor has served as a guest coach at the Rookie Development Camp for the Los Angeles Kings. The fourth coach in Royals history he replaced Derek Clancey, who became an assistant coach with Manchester after leading Reading to the Kelly Cup Playoffs in 2003-04 and 2004-05. Taylor helped rebuild the men’s ice hockey program at the University of Waterloo, helping the team reach the postseason in both seasons he was behind the bench. In the second season, the team was 13-8-3, including an eight-game unbeaten streak, and he was named Ontario University Athletics West Coach of the Year. He was a coach with Red Deer College for three seasons after serving two seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater, the University of New Brunswick, and also one season as a volunteer assistant coach for Fredericton in the American Hockey League. Taylor was team captain for three seasons at UNB and in 1995 was presented with the Mark Jeffrey Memorial Award for leadership, dedication and commitment to the team as well as the Alumni Merit Award for academic and athletic excellence. Selected to the UNB Athletics Ring of Distinction, Taylor received his bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1995.
Jeff Pyle, American Conference
Jeff Pyle is in his third season as head coach and director of hockey operations for Gwinnett. The Gladiators have won 40 games and advanced to the Kelly Cup Playoffs in each of their first two seasons, including their inaugural season in 2003-04 when they were 42-22-8 and reached the conference finals before losing to Kelly Cup Champion Idaho. Pyle is 237-165-54 in seven seasons as an ECHL head coach, having been head coach and director of hockey operations for Mobile of the ECHL from 1998-2002 when the team voluntarily suspended operations in preparation for its move to Gwinnett. Pyle had a 137-113-34 record in Mobile, advancing to the Kelly Cup Playoffs three times in four seasons, including 2001 when the Mysticks lost in double overtime to Kelly Cup Champion South Carolina in the Southern Conference Semifinals. Before joining Mobile, Pyle was an assistant coach for Grand Rapids of the International Hockey League in 1997-98 following six seasons coaching in Germany. He began his coaching career in 1985-86 when he was a player/assistant coach with Saginaw of the IHL. Pyle played 13 professional seasons in North America and Germany beginning in 1981-82 with Binghamton of the American Hockey League. Pyle played five seasons in the IHL, two with Flint and three with Saginaw, and in his 10-year career he scored 1,313 points (490g-823a) in 795 games. He was named as a league all-star eight times and league Most Valuable Player three times. Pyle was named team MVP nine times and helped his teams win four league titles. Pyle and his wife, Cathy, have a son, Ryan, and a daughter, Lauren.