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AHL champion Hershey has four former ECHL players

Thursday, June 22nd
AHL champion Hershey has four former ECHL players

For the 32nd season in a row the ECHL is represented on the American Hockey League champion as four of the 24 players who played for the Hershey Bears in the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs played in the Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League.

There have been 146 former ECHL players on the last 17 AHL champions.

The ECHL has had affiliations with 20 or more teams in the AHL each of the last 22 years. The South Carolina Stingrays served as the ECHL affiliate for Hershey during the 2022-23 season.

Former ECHL players who captured the 2023 Calder Cup title are Zach Fucale (Brampton, 2016-18; Fort Wayne, 2018-19; Orlando, 2019-20 and South Carolina, 2020-21), Jake Massie (Greenville, 2019-21 and South Carolina, 2021-22), Mason Morelli (Kansas City, 2019-20 and South Carolina, 2020-21) and Hunter Shepard (South Carolina, 2020-22).

Both of Hershey’s assistant coaches have extensive ECHL experience. Patrick Wellar is one of seven individuals in ECHL history to have won three Kelly Cup titles winning with Alaska in 2006, South Carolina in 2009 and Reading in 2013. He was an assistant coach with Cincinnati in 2016-17 and Reading in 2017-18 before joining the Bears staff in 2018-19. Nick Bootland is in his first season on Hershey’s staff after 12 seasons as head coach in Kalamazoo. He ranks seventh in ECHL history with 437 career wins.

Head Athletic Trainer Shawn Fliszar previously worked in the ECHL with Norfolk while Assistant Athletic Trainer Max Finley spent time with South Carolina. Manager of Media Relations and Broadcasting Zack Fisch was in a similar role with South Carolina in 2015-16 while Media Specialist Jesse Liebman worked in Ontario from 2012-15 and with Orlando from 2015-22.

Shepard received the Jack Butterfield Trophy as the Most Valuable Player of the Calder Cup Playoffs becoming the sixth player to receive the award after playing in the ECHL, and the first since Travis Morin in 2013-14.

Seven of the 26 players on the runner-up Coachella Valley Firebirds had ECHL experience with Joey Daccord (Brampton, 2019-20), Luke Henman (Allen, 2021-22), Jeremy McKenna (Wichita, 2020-21; Newfoundland, 2021-22 and Kansas City, 2022-23), Ian McKinnon (Jacksonville, 2019-22 and Maine, 2022-23), Nick Pastujov (Kansas City, 2020-23), Austin Poganski (Tulsa, 2018-19) and Eddie Wittchow (Manchester, 2016-17 and South Carolina, 2019-20).

During the 2022-23 season, 344 ECHL players were recalled to the American Hockey League for a total of 612 recalls. The Newfoundland Growlers led the ECHL with 23 players recalled and 52 overall recalls.

Eleven times in the last 23 years the winner of the AHL Coach of the Year award has been a former ECHL coach including former South Carolina Stingrays’ head coach Spencer Carbery, who won the award in 2020-21, and former Reading Royals and Ontario Reign head coach Karl Taylor, who won the award in 2019-20. Former Roanoke Valley Rebels’ and Richmond Renegades’ head coach Roy Sommer, won the award in 2016-17 while former Trenton Devils’ coach Rick Kowalsky, a 2017 inductee into the ECHL Hall of Fame, won the award in 2015-16. Former ECHL coaches Scott Gordon and Mike Haviland won the award in back-to-back years in 2006 and 2007. Former ECHL coaches won the award four consecutive years from 2001-04 with Don Granato, Bruce Cassidy, Geoff Ward and Claude Noel. The first former ECHL coach to win the award was Peter Laviolette in 1999.

For the 16th season in a row at least six former ECHL players were named AHL Player of the Week with former Orlando Solar Bears goaltender Hugo Alnefelt, former Alaska Aces and Bakersfield Condors goaltender Laurent Brossoit, former Gwinnett Gladiators goaltender Louis Domingue, former Wichita Thunder and Newfoundland Growlers forward Bobby McMann, former Wheeling Nailers forward Gage Quinney and former Cincinnati Cyclones forward Logan Shaw

Ten of the 32 head coaches in the American Hockey League during the 2022-23 season previously served as coaches in the ECHL with Bakersfield’s Colin Chaulk, Belleville’s Troy Mann, Bridgeport’s Brent Thompson, Grand Rapids’ Ben Simon, Laval’s Jean-Francois Houle, Manitoba’s Mark Morrison, Milwaukee’s Karl Taylor, Providence’s Ryan Mougenel, San Diego’s Roy Sommer and Texas’ Neil Graham.

Former ECHL broadcasters working in the American Hockey League during the 2022-23 season included Ryan Holt of the Bakersfield Condors, Alan Fuehring of the Bridgeport Islanders, Jason Shaver of the Chicago Wolves, Tony Brown of the Cleveland Monsters, Evan Pivnick of the Coachella Valley Firebirds, Kevin McGlue of the Colorado Eagles, Brian McCormack of the Henderson Silver Knights, Zack Fisch of the Hershey Bears, Bob Rotruck of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Jared Shafran of the Ontario Reign, Mike Folta of the Rockford IceHogs, Andy Zilch of the San Diego Gulls, Lukas Favale of the Syracuse Crunch, John Peterson of the Texas Stars, Adrian Denny of the Tucson Roadrunners and Jason Shaya of the Utica Comets.

Forty-two of the 80 referees working in the American Hockey League, came from the ECHL, while 79 of the 155 linespeople in the AHL have worked games in the ECHL.

About the ECHL

Formed in 1988-89 with five teams in four states, the ECHL has grown into a coast-to-coast league with 28 teams in 20 states and two Canadian provinces for its 35th season in 2022-23. There have been 740 players who have gone on to play in the National Hockey League after starting their careers in the ECHL, including 13 who have made their NHL debut in the 2022-23 season. The ECHL has affiliations with 28 of the 32 NHL teams in 2022-23, marking the 26th consecutive season that the league has affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL. Further information on the ECHL is available on its website at ECHL.com as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

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