PRINCETON, N.J. – The East Coast Hockey League was represented by 35 former players at the 2003 International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s World Championships including Martin Biron, who was a member of Team Canada which captured the gold medal with a 3-2 overtime win against Sweden on Sunday.
Biron, who played for South Carolina in 1997-98, dressed for two games for Canada, serving as a backup to Sean Burke, who was voted the tournament’s outstanding goaltender, and Roberto Luongo.
There were former ECHL players on the roster of 13 of the 16 teams competing in the event that began April 26 in Helsinki, Tampere and Turku, Finland.
Jan Lasak, who played for Hampton Roads in 1999-2000, and Rastislav Stana, who played for Richmond in 2000-02, helped Slovakia capture the bronze medal. Lasak was in net for six of Slovakia’s nine games, including the medal-winning game against the Czech Republic, and he finished fourth overall with a .935 save percentage and fifth in goals against average with 1.84. Stana, who started two games for Slovakia, had a 2.00 goals against average and a .913 save percentage.
Tomas Vokoun, who played for Wheeling in 1995-96, was the number one goaltender for the Czech Republic, playing in seven of nine games. Vokoun had one shutout and finished sixth overall with a 2.16 goals against average and a .925 save percentage.
There were four former ECHL players on the United States team that finished seventh, including goaltenders Chris Rogles, who played for Nashville and Knoxville in 1995-96, and Damian Rhodes, who played for Greenville in 2002-03. Rogles split time with Ryan Miller in goal and had a 2.35 goals against average and a .919 save percentage in three games. Rhodes played only one game making six saves in 11:58. Joe Corvo, who played for Hampton Roads in 1998-99, and Francis Bouillion, who played for Wheeling in 1996-97, both played in all six games for the United States. Corvo finished with one assist and was +1 while Bouillion had one assist and was -1.
Martin Hohenberger, who played for New Orleans in 1997-99, played in all six games for Austria and tied for the team lead with three goals and four points. Andre Lakos, who played for Augusta in 2002-03, and his younger brother Philippe Lakos, who played for Augusta and Arkansas in 2002-03, both played in all six games for Austria.
Dmitry Pankov, who played for Richmond in 1995-96, played for Belarus and tied for the team scoring lead with four points (1g-3a).
Len Soccio, who played for Wheeling, Greensboro and Columbus-Ohio from 1989-92, led Germany with five points (2g-3a) in six games.
Takahito Suzuki, who played for Charlotte in 2002-03, had two assists in six games for Japan.
The ECHL will open its 2003-04 season on Friday, October 17 with 32 teams in 18 states playing a record 1,152 games, making it the largest league in professional hockey.
The ECHL welcomes nine new markets for 2003-04 with the addition of the Anchorage Aces, the Bakersfield Condors, the Fresno Falcons, the Gwinnett (Georgia) Gladiators, the Idaho (Boise) Steelheads, the Las Vegas Wranglers, the Long Beach Ice Dogs, the San Diego Gulls, and the Texas (Beaumont) Wildcatters.
In 2002-03, the 27 members of the ECHL had affiliations with 24 of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League and 22 of the 28 teams in the American Hockey League. There were 90 former ECHL players that played in the NHL in 2002-03, including 20 who made their NHL debut, and there have been 215 former ECHL players that have gone on to play in the NHL. There were more than 80 players in the ECHL on AHL contracts in 2002-03 and the ECHL had 450 call ups to the AHL in 2002-03, more than any other professional league.