PRINCETON, N.J. – The East Coast Hockey League on Thursday announced its All-ECHL Teams for 2002-03.
2002-03 All-ECHL First Team
G – Alfie Michaud, Peoria
D – Jim Baxter, Mississippi
D – Ryan Gaucher, Cincinnati
LW – Jason Jaffray, Roanoke *
C – Buddy Smith, Arkansas
RW – Steffon Walby, Mississippi
2002-03 All-ECHL Second Team
G – Patrick Couture, Columbia
D – Jonathan Zion, Richmond *
D – Matt Pagnutti, Arkansas
LW – Shawn McNeil, Louisiana
C – Rejean Stringer, Columbia
RW – Rick Kowalsky, Roanoke
* – Rookie
The All-ECHL First Team and Second Team were determined in a vote of ECHL coaches.
Peoria’s Alfie Michaud leads the ECHL with a 2.12 goals against average and ranks second with a .928 save percentage while going 19-4-3 in 28 games. The 26-year-old Michaud began his professional career in 1999-2000, a season that saw him play two games in the National Hockey League with the Vancouver Canucks. He was named ECHL Goalie of the Week on February 3 and was named as the Sun National Bank East Coast Hockey League Saver of the Month for January.
Mississippi’s Jim Baxter leads ECHL defensemen and ranks fourth overall in the ECHL with 58 assists, and leads defensemen and is tied for 17th overall in scoring with 74 points in 68 games. Selected by the Boston Bruins in the seventh round (180th overall) in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft and by the Carolina Hurricanes in the seventh round (202nd overall) in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, Baxter, who was named as a starter for the Southern Conference in the 2003 Compuware/ECHL All-Star Game, leads Mississippi in assists while ranking second in scoring. The 23-year-old is in his second season with the Sea Wolves and has played each of his four professional seasons in the ECHL. He joins Steffon Walby as the only players in Mississippi history to earn All-ECHL First Team honors.
Cincinnati’s Ryan Gaucher leads ECHL defensemen with 19 goals and is tied for the lead among defensemen with 12 power-play goals. Currently with Norfolk of the American Hockey League, Gaucher ranks second among ECHL defensemen with 46 assists and 65 points in 54 games. The 25-year-old Gaucher was named as a starter for the 2003 Compuware/ECHL All-Star Game and he assisted on the first goal in the Northern Conference’s 8-2 win. He scored three points (0g-3a) in two games with Cleveland of the AHL and has scored three points (2g-1a) in 13 games with Norfolk.
Roanoke’s Jason Jaffray, who was named to the ECHL All-Rookie Team on Wednesday, leads ECHL rookies with 50 assists and 83 points in 61 games while ranking second with 33 goals and tied for third with 10 power-play goals. The 21-year-old Jaffray, who ranks seventh overall in the ECHL in scoring, became the first player ever to win the CCM ECHL Rookie of the Month twice, earning the honor in November and December after being the runner-up in October. Under contract to Norfolk of the AHL, Jaffray was named as a starter and had an assist in the Northern Conference’s 8-2 win in the 2003 Compuware/ECHL All-Star Game.
Arkansas’ Buddy Smith leads the ECHL with 74 assists and 102 points and in his first full season with the RiverBlades has broken the team record for assists and points. In his fourth season in the ECHL, Smith has scored a career-high 28 goals while also setting career bests for assists and points. He was named as a starter for the Southern Conference in the 2003 Compuware/ECHL All-Star Game. He is the first player in Arkansas history to earn First-Team All-ECHL honors and to score 100 points in a season.
Mississippi’s Steffon Walby is making his second consecutive appearance on the First Team, having shared the right wing honors with Roanoke’s Rick Kowalsky in 2001-02. Walby is tied for the ECHL lead with 41 goals and seven shorthand goals while ranking second in game-winning goals with 10 and tied for fifth in scoring with 87 points in 57 games. He is one goal away from tying his team record of 42 goals and six points away from tying his team record of 93 points, both set in 2001-02. Walby, who in 2001-02 became the first Mississippi player in history to earn First Team All-ECHL honors, was named as a starter for the Southern Conference in the 2003 Compuware/ECHL All-Star Game.
Columbia’s Patrick Couture ranks second in the ECHL with a 2.40 goals against average and is tied for third with four shutouts. He ranks fourth in save percentage with .918 and ranks fifth in wins with 27. He has tied Martin Villeneuve’s team record of four shutouts and is two wins shy of Villeneuve’s team record of 29 wins despite playing in 16 games fewer than Villeneuve, who also holds the team records for goals against average (2.50) and save percentage (.915). He and Rejean Stringer are the first two players in Columbia history to earn All-ECHL honors.
Arkansas’ Matt Pagnutti is tied for the ECHL lead among defensemen with 12 power-play goals and is third in scoring with 55 points (14g-41a) in 63 games. In his second season with the RiverBlades and his fifth season in the ECHL, Pagnutti has reached career highs in goals (14), assists (38) and points (52). He becomes the third player in team history to earn All-ECHL honors, joining Buddy Smith and defenseman Eric Long, who was named Second Team All-ECHL in 2000-01.
Richmond’s Jonathan Zion, who was named to the ECHL All-Rookie Team on Wednesday, is tied for fifth among ECHL defensemen and tied for 13th among ECHL rookies with 50 points (13g-37a) in 57 games. Selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the fourth round (110th overall) in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, Zion leads Richmond defensemen with seven power-play goals, two game-winning goals, 13 goals, 37 assists and 50 points. The 21-year-old scored a power-play goal in the 2003 Compuware/ECHL All-Star Game helping the Northern Conference to an 8-2 win. The 6-0 and 180-pound Zion has also played with Cincinnati of the AHL scoring three points (2g-1a) in 12 games. He becomes only the second player in Richmond history to earn All-ECHL honors joining Maxime Gingras, who was named First-Team All-ECHL as a goaltender in 1998-99.
Louisiana’s Shawn McNeil is third in the ECHL with 40 goals, ranks fourth in scoring with 89 points and is tied for fourth with eight game-winning goals. Selected by the Washington Capitals in the third round (78th overall) in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, McNeil, who is in his fourth season with the IceGators, has career professional highs in goals (40), assists (49) and points (89) in 69 games.
Columbia’s Rejean Stringer leads the ECHL with 11 game-winning goals while ranking second in scoring with 93 points and fifth in assists with 57. He has career professional highs in goals (36), assists (57) and points (93), and has broken Joel Trottier’s team record of 26 goals while breaking his own team records for assists (43) and points (57). Named as a starter in the 2003 Compuware/ECHL All-Star Game, Stringer assisted on both Southern Conference’s goals.
Roanoke’s Rick Kowalsky, who was named to the All-ECHL First Team in 2001-02, is tied for eighth in the ECHL with 82 points. In his second season in Roanoke and his eighth season in the ECHL, Kowalsky has a team-leading and career high 55 assists and needs only one more point to tie his career-scoring best.
The East Coast Hockey League will announce its 2002-03 Sportsmanship Award winner on Friday, March 28.