ECHL’s 24th season underway
The ECHL’s 24th season faced off with 18 games last weekend. Four teams enjoyed perfect 2-0-0 weekends as the Alaska Aces, Bakersfield Condors, Elmira Jackals and Wheeling Nailers all won both of their outings over the weekend.
Elmira and Wheeling each scored 10 goals in their two games, with the Jackals’ Evan Barlow enjoying the best offensive output of the weekend. Barlow tied a club record with six points (3g-3a) in a 7-2 win over Trenton on Friday and followed that up with an assist in a 3-1 victory against the Titans on Saturday.
Wheeling enjoyed balanced scoring in its two-game road trip to Greenville and South Carolina as eight players share the team lead with two points each and six other players notched one point. Sixteen of the Nailers’ 17 skaters are at least a +2 through two games and goaltender Patrick Killeen, a 2011 ECHL All-Star, recorded both wins with a 1.00 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage.
After recording a 5-4 win at Ontario on Friday, Bakersfield opened its home schedule with a 3-1 win over Colorado on Saturday. Jesse Gimblett scored a goal in each game, and leads the team with four points (2g-2a) and a +3 while goaltender Bryan Pitton and Matt Keetley each recorded a win during opening weekend.
In Alaska, 2011 ECHL Goaltender of the Year Gerald Coleman picked up where he left off last year, picking up a pair of wins over Las Vegas while posting a 0.96 goals-against average and a.962 save percentage.
The ECHL’s two newest members each won their debuts over the weekend. The Colorado Eagles began ECHL play with a 5-2 win at Stockton on Friday. Chad Costello scored two goals to lead the Eagles to the win while Kyle Jones stopped 37 shots to earn the win in net. On Saturday, the Chicago Express made their ECHL debut with a 5-1 win at Toledo. Blair Riley scored the first goal in team history as part of a four-point effort (2g-2a) while goaltender Rob Nolan earned the win with 34 saves.
Both the Eagles and Express host their home openers this weekend. Colorado entertains Stockton at the Budweiser Events Center on Friday and Saturday and Chicago opens play at Sears Centre Arena on Saturday against Kalamazoo.
Opening Weekend attendance surpasses 5,000 per game
For the first time since the 2007-08 season, the ECHL averaged more than 5,000 fans per game over opening weekend. A total of 90,760 fans attended the 18 games over the weekend for an average of 5,042 per game, an increase of 5.5% over last season when the league averaged 4,764 fans per game during opening weekend.
Toledo led the way with a standing-room only crowd of 8,250 for its home opener on Saturday, marking the largest crowd to ever attend a professional hockey game in the city’s hockey history, which dates to 1947.
The defending Kelly Cup champion Alaska Aces welcomed 5,577 fans to Sullivan Arena for their banner-raising celebration on Friday, marking a 19.7% increase over last season’s opener and the team’s largest opening night crowd since 2006-07.
Bakersfield had 6,788 fans for its opener on Saturday marking the fifth time in the last six seasons that the Condors have had over 6,000 fans for their opener. Stockton saw a 10% increase in its home opener as the team had 6,827 on Friday and Idaho improved its home opener by 4% with 4,232 at CenturyLink Arena.
Florida welcomed just under 11,000 fans for its two-game weekend series against Gwinnett while Elmira had just under 7,000 fans for its opening weekend against Trenton, playing to 88% of capacity at First Arena.
Greenville had 5,935 fans for its opener on Friday, an increase of 23% over its inaugural home opener last season. Ontario, which has led the league in attendance each of the last two seasons, opened its home schedule with nearly 12,000 fans for two games.
South Carolina welcomed 3,879 for its opener on Friday while Kalamazoo had 2,921 for its opening game on Saturday.
Seven teams host their 2011-12 home openers this weekend. Colorado plays host to its first ECHL game on Friday when it hosts Stockton while Chicago hosts Kalamazoo on Saturday in the first ECHL game at Sears Centre Arena. Gwinnett opens its ninth season at The Arena at Gwinnett Center on Friday against Greenville while Las Vegas entertains Ontario. On Saturday, the Trenton Titans take to the ice at Sun National Bank Center for the first time since 2006-07 when they host Florida, Reading entertains Cincinnati and Wheeling opens its 20th season at WesBanco Arena against Elmira.