League Coaches Are Mixture Of New, Old

Nineteen of the 25 coaches behind ECHL benches return to their same team from 2005-06 while six begin careers with new teams, including three first-year head coaches.

After spending 2005-06 as an assistant coach with Norfolk of the American Hockey League, former Trenton player Rick Kowalsky returns as head coach just two years after leading the Titans to the Kelly Cup championship. Troy Mann was promoted from assistant coach to head coach in Columbia while Chuck Weber moves from being an assistant coach in Utah to being head coach in Cincinnati which returns to the ice for the first time since 2003-04.

Malcolm Cameron is in his first season with the Texas Wildcatters after spending the last two years with Long Beach where he was 79-47-18 and led the Ice Dogs to back-to-back Kelly Cup Playoff appearances. Long Beach is now led by Rick Adduono, who spent part of last season as head coach of Pensacola and who was a part of two Kelly Cup championships with South Carolina. George Dupont is in his first full season in Pensacola, having taken over the team on Jan. 6 and going 10-28-4. Tony MacAulay is in his first season in Victoria after taking over as head coach in Trenton on Dec. 5, 2005 and leading the Titans back to the Kelly Cup Playoffs.

Bob Ferguson returns for his second season with Augusta, which returned to the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2001 after going 30-36-6, while Frank Anzalone is in his second season with Johnstown, which advanced past the first round in the postseason for the first time since 2002. Anzalone (299-209-57) needs one victory to become only the third ECHL coach to reach 300 wins and is third in ECHL career wins behind John Brophy (480) and John Marks (466).

Derek Laxdal returns for his second season after leading Idaho to a 43-21-8 record and its third straight appearance in the Kelly Cup Playoffs while Ron Filion returns in Phoenix looking to lead the RoadRunners to a berth in the postseason in their second season. Chris Cichocki returns in Stockton where the Thunder hopes to have the same success on the ice as they did off the ice in their inaugural season, leading the league in attendance including four capacity crowds at 10,117-seat Stockton Arena.

In Matt Thomas’ first season in Fresno, the Falcons reached 100 points for the first time in history (43-15-14), captured a division title and came within one goal of reaching the Kelly Cup Finals, losing 3-2 in double overtime in Game 7 to eventual Kelly Cup champion Alaska in the National Conference Finals. Jason Christie led Utah to a 36-30-6 record and a berth in the postseason in the Grizzlies first season in the ECHL, marking the fifth time in six ECHL seasons that his team has advanced to the Kelly Cup Playoffs.

A pair of coaches in the North Division begin their sophomore year behind the bench as Karl Taylor returns in Reading and Glen Patrick is back in Wheeling. Taylor was chosen to coach the American Conference in the ECHL All-Star Game, becoming the sixth first-year coach since 1996 to step behind the bench for the midseason event. He led the Royals to a 42-23-7 record and a third straight trip to the playoffs while Reading continued to rank among the league leaders in players called up to the American Hockey League. Patrick and the Nailers eliminated Reading from the postseason, the first playoff win for Wheeling since 1998, after finishing 45-21-6 in the regular season.

In his third season in Dayton and his eighth season as an ECHL head coach, Don MacAdam has a 166-156-41 record. Nick Vitucci led Toledo to the American Conference Finals a year ago, the farthest postseason advancement since 1996, and has led the Storm to the Kelly Cup Playoffs each of the last two years which is the first back-to-back postseason appearances since 1998 and 1999. Vitucci was ECHL Coach of the Year in 2004-05 and has won more ECHL titles than any other individual, capturing four as a player (1989, 1990, 1994 and 1996) and one as an assistant coach (2002).

Glen Gulutzan returns for his fourth season in Las Vegas where he was named ECHL Coach of the Year in 2005-06 after the Wranglers finished second overall with 112 points and a 53-13-6 record, tying the league record for second-most wins and finishing with the third-highest point total in the 18-year history of the ECHL.

Returning for his fourth year in Alaska is Davis Payne whose team in 2005-06 became only the second team in ECHL history to win both the Brabham Cup, awarded to the regular season point champion, and the Kelly Cup, awarded to the postseason champion. The Aces finished the regular season with 113 points which is the highest point total to win the league postseason title and the second-highest total ever.

Jeff Pyle returns in Gwinnett which he led to its best finish ever with 108 points, a 50-15-7 record and a trip to the Kelly Cup Finals. Pyle has been selected to coach in the ECHL All-Star Game each of the past three years as the Gladiators have reached the postseason each of their first three seasons in Georgia. The longest tenured coach in the league is Gerry Fleming, who is one win shy of 200 wins in five seasons with the Everblades (199-115-46) and has a career ECHL record of 237-142-53. Fleming has led Florida to the Kelly Cup Playoffs in each of his five years behind the bench of the Everblades, including back-to-back Finals appearances in 2004 and 2005.

Returning for his third full season is Bakersfield’s Marty Raymond, whose Condors were 40-26-6 in 2005-06 while setting 38 team records and reaching the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the second year in a row. Bakersfield beat Long Beach in seven games for its first-ever postseason series win before being eliminated in seven games by Fresno in the Pacific Division Finals. Derek Wilkinson, who is the second youngest active head coach at 32 years old, has led Charlotte to the postseason in each of his first two seasons, the first back-to-back appearances since 2001 and 2002. The Checkers advanced to the American Conference Finals in 2005, marking the longest postseason run in nine years.

After leading South Carolina to its league record 13th straight postseason appearance in 2005-06, Jason Fitzsimmons returns for his fifth season as head coach and his ninth season with the organization where he won a Kelly Cup as a player in 1997 and as an assistant coach in 2001.