PRINCETON, N.J. – Former Augusta Lynx goaltender Mike Wall made 19 saves and picked up the win in his National Hockey League debut as Anaheim beat Calgary 5-3 on Sunday.
Wall becomes the 307th player to play in the NHL after playing in the ECHL and the fourth to play his first NHL game this season, joining former ECHL All-Star goaltender Mike Smith, former Toledo goaltender Joey MacDonald and former Florida center Drew Larman.
The backup goaltender for Anaheim on Sunday was first-year professional Dave McKee, who began the season with Augusta and was 8-2-0 with a goals-against average of 3.68 and a save percentage of .899 in 13 games before being called up by the Ducks on Nov. 21. The Lynx are the ECHL affiliate of the Ducks and the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League.
Wall was recalled from Portland where he was 5-1-1 with a goals-against average of 3.23 and a save percentage of .871 in seven games. Anaheim’s regular goaltenders, Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Ilya Bryzgalov, were sidelined because of lower-body injuries. Wall is the 12th goalie to play for Anaheim, which joined the NHL in 1993-94, and only the third to win his first start joining Bryzgalov and Martin Gerber.
Signed as a free agent by Anaheim in September 2005, the 21-year-old Wall was 8-11-1 with a shutout, a goals against average of 3.81 and a save percentage of .879 in 21 games with Augusta as a rookie in 2005-06. He also played in the AHL with Portland where he was 5-1-1 with a shutout, a goals-against average of 3.23 and a save percentage of .871 in seven regular season games and served as a backup for Anaheim.
The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League, the ECHL has affiliations with 25 of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League in 2006-07, marking the 10th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL. There were a record 47 former ECHL players who made their NHL debut in 2005-06, including five goaltenders who played a game in both leagues. Since 2000-01 there have been 160 players who have played in the NHL after the ECHL and in 2005-06 there were 112 former ECHL players who played in the NHL and all 30 teams had a former ECHL player take the ice for at least one game.
There are two NHL head coaches (Peter Laviolette and Jim Playfair) and nine NHL assistant coaches who have an ECHL background. The ECHL was represented for the sixth consecutive year on the Stanley Cup champion in 2006 by Laviolette, who is the first ECHL coach to hoist the coveted trophy, Chad LaRose, Andrew Hutchinson and assistant athletic trainer Chris Stewart.
The league officially changed its name to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
The ECHL has affiliations with 24 of the 27 teams in the American Hockey League in 2006-07 and for the past 17 years there has been an ECHL player on the Calder Cup champion. The ECHL has had more players called up to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined each of the past four seasons with 1,646 call ups involving almost 1,000 players.
The ECHL raised its average attendance for the third straight year in 2005-06 drawing 3,934,794 for 900 games which is an average of 4,372 per game, an increase of more than nine percent from 2004-05 and the largest per-game average since 1999-2000. Six teams surpassed 200,000 and nine teams averaged 5,000 per game for the first time since 1999-2000 as the league welcomed 40 sellout crowds and 13 of the 22 returning teams raised their average attendance from a year ago.
The Idaho Steelheads and the City of Boise will host the 15th Annual ECHL All-Star Game presented by Rbk Hockey on Jan. 17 and the 10th Annual ECHL All-Star Skills Competition presented by Rbk Hockey on Jan. 16 at Qwest Arena.
In 2005-06 the ECHL and its member teams contributed more than $2.3 million for charity and relief funds, including those benefiting victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, while also making thousands of appearances by players, coaches, team personnel and mascots at schools, hospitals, libraries and charity functions.
Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at ECHL.com.