With 35 saves in a 4-3 shootout loss to San Diego on March 5, Pensacola’s Brian Eklund moved into second place on the ECHL list for most saves by a goaltender in a season. Under contract to Tampa Bay of the National Hockey League, Eklund had nine saves in the first period to move up to fourth place with 1,788 saves. He had 15 saves in the second period to move past Kirk Daubenspeck of South Carolina (1,802 in 2002-03) into third place with 1,803 saves. He made nine saves in the third period for 1,812 to move over Ray LeBlanc of the Jacksonville Lizard Kings (1,808 in 1999-2000) and had two saves in overtime. The ECHL record for saves in a season is 1,831 by Mark Michaud of Hampton Roads in 1993-94.
Leading the ECHL averaging 35.6 saves per game, the 6-5 and 210-pound Eklund is 30-15-6 with a 3.06 goals against average and a .921 save percentage appearing in 51 of Pensacola’s 58 games. He leads the ECHL with 30 wins and 3,055 minutes and is tied for the league lead with five shootout wins while ranking second in overtime wins with three.
Selected in the seventh round (226th overall) by Tampa Bay in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Eklund has broken the team record for most saves of 1,783 by Sean Gauthier in 1997-98, and he begins the week needing seven shots to tie the team record of 1,977 also by Gauthier in 1997-98. The 30 wins is the most in Ice Pilots team history and two shy of the all-time team record of 32 wins set by Craig Brown of the Nashville Knights in 1995-96. Maxime Gingras set the Pensacola team records for appearances (57) and minutes (3,381) in 2002-03. Eklund, who was named ITECH HOCKEY ECHL Saver of the Week for November 24-30, became the seventh goaltender in league history score a goal on December 5 at Mississippi.
In his first professional season in 2002-03, Eklund was 10-6-0 with a 3.66 goals against average and a .896 save percentage in 19 games for Pensacola and was 1-0-0 with a 1.00 goals against average and a .974 save percentage in one game with Springfield of the American Hockey League.