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ECHL's 35th Season opens on Friday

Monday, October 17th
ECHL's 35th Season opens on Friday

The 35th season of the ECHL begins with Opening Weekend on Friday with eight games, continues on Saturday with 14 games and concludes with seven games on Sunday. The first game of the 2022-23 season features a rematch of the 2021 North Division Finals with Newfoundland hosting Reading. The Growlers rallied from a 3 games to 1 deficit in their postseason series against the Royals to reach the Eastern Conference Finals. One other postseason rematch is on tap for Friday with Utah hosting Rapid City. The Grizzlies defeated the Rush in six games in the Mountain Division Finals. Friday’s other action includes Atlanta hosting Florida, Fort Wayne visiting Indy, Trois-Rivières welcoming Maine, Norfolk entertaining South Carolina, Idaho traveling to Iowa and Tulsa hosting Allen. Ten teams open their home schedule on Saturday, including Greenville taking on Savannah in the Ghost Pirates’ first-ever ECHL game. Other home openers on Saturday include Maine hosting Trois-Rivières and South Carolina hosting Norfolk in the back end of home-and-home weekend series. Other action sees Jacksonville taking on Orlando, Kalamazoo welcoming Indy, Worcester hosting Adirondack, Toledo visiting Wheeling, Fort Wayne entertaining Cincinnati, Tulsa visiting Kansas City and Allen heading to Wichita. Among Sunday’s action is Orlando hosting Jacksonville in the Solar Bears’ home opener. Began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states, the ECHL has grown into a coast-to-coast league that has 28 teams in 20 states and two Canadian provinces playing 1,008 games from Oct. 21, 2022 to April 16, 2023. The ECHL is the third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League. The ECHL has affiliations with 28 teams in the National Hockey League in 2022-23, marking the 26th consecutive season that the league had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL. New faces behind the benches Eleven of the 28 ECHL teams will have a new coach in charge as the 2022-23 season gets underway. After retiring following a 14-year playing career, including four seasons with Adirondack, Peter MacArthur takes over as the Thunder’s new head coach while Chad Costello, a three-time ECHL Most Valuable Player and two-time Kelly Cup champion with Allen, takes over behind the Americans’ bench after his retirement following the 2022-23 season. In Iowa, Derek Damon assumes the head-coaching role after spending last season as the team’s assistant coach while in Kalamazoo, 2022 ECHL Hall of Fame inductee Joel Martin has taken over the top spot after three seasons as the K-Wings assistant coach. Another former assistant coach taking over as head coach is Terrence Wallin in Maine, who spent the 2021-22 season as the Mariners’ assistant coach. Matt Carkner gets his first head-coaching assignment in Orlando after previously serving as an assistant coach for five seasons with Bridgeport of the American Hockey League. Rick Bennett is the first head coach in Savannah team history, and enters his first season in the professional ranks as a coach after spending 22 seasons in the collegiate ranks, including the previous 10 seasons at Union College, which included a National Championship in 2014. After one season as Reading’s assistant coach, James Henry moves into the head-coaching spot while in Worcester, Jordan Lavallee-Smotherman retired after a 16-year playing career to enter the coaching ranks for the first time. A pair of coaches who served as interim head coaches in the latter stages of the 2021-22 season enter their first full seasons as a head coach this season – Duncan Dalmao in Indy and Brenden Kotyk in South Carolina. Approaching milestones Atlanta’s Mike Pelech is on the verge of a couple of milestones in the 2022-23 season. The 14-year veteran enters this season second all-time in ECHL history with 813 games played, trailing the all-time leader, Sam Ftorek, by 46 games. Pelech ranks third all-time with 421 assists, which is 39 behind Chris Valicevic for second on the all-time list, and he is tied for fifth all-time with 611 points, which is 23 points behind Trevor Jobe for fourth place. Justin Taylor of Kalamazoo begins the season fifth all-time with 724 games played. With 66 games played, he would move into third place on the ECHL’s all-time list. Taylor has 497 career ECHL points, and with three points will become the 32nd player in league history to reach the 500-point plateau. Several ECHL coaches are also on the verge of milestones in the 2022-23 season. Florida’s Brad Ralph, who last season set the ECHL record for most career postseason wins by a coach, enters the 2022-23 season eighth on the all-time regular-season wins list with 408. With 30 wins, he would move into sixth place in ECHL history. Tulsa’s Rob Murray enters the season with 399 career wins, and with one victory will become just the 10th coach in ECHL history to reach the 400-win plateau.

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