PRINCETON, N.J. – The ECHL will be represented by six former players and 2003 ECHL Coach of the Year Claude Noel in the 2005 Dodge American Hockey League All-Star Classic to be played at 7 p.m. ET on February 14 at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H.
Former ECHL players on the roster of the Canadian AHL All-Stars are forwards Simon Gamache and Michel Ouellet, defenseman Lawrence Nycholat and goaltenders Jason LaBarbera and Joey MacDonald while defenseman Andrew Hutchinson represents the ECHL on the PlanetUSA AHL All-Star team. AHL fans voted Ouellet, Nycholat and LaBarbera as starters while a committee of AHL coaches selected the remainder of the rosters.
The ECHL has affiliations with 24 of the 28 teams in the AHL and 104 players in the ECHL are on AHL contracts. The ECHL has affiliations with 23 of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League and 96 players in the ECHL are on NHL contracts.
Noel was selected because he led Milwaukee to the 2004 AHL Championship, the 15th consecutive year that the ECHL has been represented on the Calder Cup. Noel was named 2004 AHL Coach of the Year, becoming the fourth ECHL coach in a row to be named outstanding coach in the AHL and the fifth in the past six seasons to earn the honor. Noel, however, is the only coach that has been named Coach of the Year in both the ECHL and the AHL.
The head coach of the PlanetUSA All-Star team will come from the team with the best point percentage after play on Sunday. That coach and Noel will join a list of former AHL All-Star head coaches that includes current NHL and former Wheeling bench boss Peter Laviolette.
Selected in the fourth round (124th overall) by Pittsburgh in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Ouellet began his professional career in 2002-03, scoring 46 points (20g-26a) in 55 regular season games with Wheeling of the ECHL and two points (0g-2a) in four games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL.
Selected in the third round (66th overall) by the New York Rangers in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, LaBarbera became the fourth ECHL player to be named AHL MVP in 2003-04, joining Eric Boguniecki (2001-02), Martin Brochu (1999-2000) and Brad Smyth (1995-96). He was the sixth ECHL goaltender to be named AHL Goaltender of the Year in 2003-04, joining Marc Lamothe (2002-03), Martin Brochu (1999-2000), Martin Biron (1998-99), Manny Legace (1995-96) and Frederic Chabot (1993-94). LaBarbera began his professional career in 2000-01 and appeared in 35 games with Charlotte of the ECHL, where he was 18-10-7 in the regular season and 1-1 in the Kelly Cup Playoffs. He returned to Charlotte in 2001-02 and was 9-3-1 in the regular season and 2-2 in the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
In his first professional season in 2000-01, Nycholat scored three points (1g-2a) in five games with Jackson of the ECHL and also played in the International Hockey League with Cleveland, scoring 10 points (3g-7a) in 42 regular season games and one goal in 14 playoff games.
In his first professional season in 2001-02, Gamache helped Greenville capture the Kelly Cup Championship and he shared Kelly Cup Playoff Most Valuable Player honors with teammate Tyrone Garner. Selected by Atlanta in the ninth round (290th overall) in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Gamache led the postseason with 15 goals and 24 points, scoring a point in the last 11 postseason games (11g-6a). He scored 38 points (19g-19a) in 38 regular season games for the Grrrowl in 2001-02 while also scoring six points (2g-4a) in 26 games with Chicago of the AHL.
In his first full professional season in 2002-03, Hutchinson scored seven points (2g-5a) in 10 games with Toledo of the ECHL and 26 points (9g-17a) in 63 regular season games and one goal in three playoff games with Milwaukee of the AHL. Selected in the second round (54th overall) by Nashville in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, Hutchinson made his NHL debut with Nashville in 2003-04, finishing with eight points (4g-4a) in 18 games with the Predators. He was one of eight former ECHL players who helped Milwaukee win the AHL Championship in 2003-04, scoring 16 points (5g-11a) in 22 playoff games, after scoring 24 points (12g-12a) in 46 regular season games.
Joey MacDonald began his professional career in 2001-02 with Toledo of the ECHL, finishing with a 12-15-7 record and a goals-against average of 2.88 and a save percentage of .922.
The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2 in the United States and on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada.