Since hockey is played on ice, a 4×4 just isn’t good enough. Thus, IceMenManiacs.com presents the 2012-13 IceMen season in 5×5 format – that is, five “Top 5″ lists!
TOP 5 GAMES
When a team only wins 25 of its 72 games and finishes in the conference cellar, the highlights may be few and far between. Though the IceMen did not win often, a handful of the victories were quite memorable.
Here are 5 of the season’s best IceMen games…
1. February 22 at Florida: In a game for the record books, the IceMen beat the defending champion Everblades 5-4 after prevailing in a marathon 21-round shootout. The tiebreaker was much longer than the most lengthy shootout in NHL history (15 rounds) and tied the ECHL record (set in 1992). IceMen goaltender Paul Dainton made 28 saves in net in regulation and overtime, then set a new ECHL record with 19 saves in the shootout. Both teams scored just once in the first 5 rounds, and each lit the lamp in the sudden-death 10th round. After Rounds 11-20 were all scoreless, Andre Bouvet-Morrissette – the 42nd shooter overall – won it for Evansville in the 21st round. It was a bittersweet victory for the short-handed IceMen, who had just 13 available skaters for the shootout after both Josh Beaulieu (severe wrist laceration) and Mark Cody (concussion) sustained season-ending injuries earlier in the game.
2. December 7 vs Toledo: It took 48 home games (regular season and playoffs) in order to get the first IceMen hat trick in the brief history of the Ford Center. It then took less than two minutes to get the second. The IceMen trailed 4-2 early in the second period, then scored 5 unanswered goals (including 3 in a span of 45 seconds) to blow it open en route to a wild 8-5 victory over the Walleye. In his first game with the IceMen, Wade MacLeod turned the Ford’s first hat trick at the 1:37 mark of the third period. Just 1:21 later, fellow AHL Springfield Falcons prospect Nathan Moon completed his own trick. MacLeod was also involved in a key moment early in the game, as the victim of a questionable Adam Hobson knee-to-knee hit that went unpenalized. Veteran IceMen defenseman Daniel Tetrault stood up for his new teammate and fought Hobson in a show of unity that energized the home crowd and inspired the Evansville players in their pursuit of a victory.
3. March 30 at Cincinnati: With over 100 rabid IceMen Maniacs among the 8299 in attendance at US Bank Arena on the regular season’s final day, Evansville blanked the North Division champion Cyclones 4-0. The decidedly young IceMen dressed 12 rookies, two of whom shared the shutout in net. James Reid got the start and made 26 saves en route to what would have been his first career shutout, but he unselfishly yielded the crease to Kevin Moore for the finale’s final 3:18. It was the first time that Moore, dressed as the team’s backup for the 21st time, actually saw game action. He made 2 saves in his ECHL debut, preserving the shared shutout for Reid and a happy conclusion to the season for Evansville. Offensively, the IceMen were led by Jason Dale, who notched a natural hat trick – his first career trifecta.
4. February 1 vs Cincinnati: It was the first shootout ever at the Ford Center, in the 60th regular-season home game played at the building. It was also the night that the IceMen/Cyclones rivalry arguably eclipsed the IceMen/Komets rivalry, at least in terms of on-ice hatred. The IceMen trailed three times during regulation but came back to force overtime and ultimately prevailed 5-4 in the shootout, with Dainton stopping every Cincinnati shooter and Dylan Clarke scoring the only goal. The victory was extra special because of the way the game started. Cyclones goon Andrew Conboy (who entered the game with 186 penalty minutes in just 38 games) jumped Moon immediately after the opening face-off, behind the referee’s back. Conboy yanked Moon down to the ice and repeatedly threw haymakers at the unwilling punching bag, earning himself a Fighting Major and a Game Misconduct for being the aggressor of the altercation. It set the tone for the rest of the night, as multiple fights and skirmishes resulted in 34 combined penalties totalling 123 minutes.
5. November 17 at Fort Wayne: While things may now be just as heated with the Cyclones, the IceMen/Komets rivalry is also still alive and well. In another instance of numerous Evansville fans storming another team’s barn, the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum’s crowd of 9424 had a distinct IceMen flavor as the visitors thumped the host Komets 5-0. Paul Karpowich made 23 saves to earn the season’s only solo shutout in net, and the IceMen got a goal and an assist each from Matt Gens, Beaulieu and Dale. The game featured a true rarity in hockey, as Evansville scored back-to-back short-handed goals during a single Fort Wayne power-play in the third period. The IceMen scored just 5 “shorties” in 326 other opponent power-plays all season.
TOP 5 CROWDS
Despite the team’s struggles on the ice, it was a banner year for the IceMen at the box office. Evansville’s average attendance jumped from 4882 last season to 5415 in 2012-13, an increase of 533 or 10.9%. The IceMen finished 7th in the 23-team ECHL, despite being the league’s fifth-smallest market.
Top rival Fort Wayne topped the league’s attendance chart at 7583 fans per game. Though still good enough for #1, that was actually a drop of 187 (2.4%) from the Komets’ average of 7770 in 2011-12. Ontario (close behind Fort Wayne at 7575) and Orlando (6668) were second and third.
For the first time, hockey officially trumped basketball in Evansville. The IceMen easily out-drew the University of Evansville Purple Aces men’s basketball team both overall (5415 to 4588) and on Saturdays (7164 to 5771). Aces attendance was down (12.8%) in large part due to the absence of marquee non-conference opponents like Butler and Indiana, both of whom visited the Ford Center last season. The IceMen actually had 9 crowds that were bigger than UE’s largest (6909).
Exactly half (18 of 36) of IceMen home games were witnessed by more than 5000 fans this season, and 11 crowds were north of 6600 – up from just 5 last season.
These were the 5 largest gatherings…
1. Tue. Nov. 6: The season’s biggest crowd made the Ford Center sound like it was hosting a Justin Bieber concert, as 9381 fans (mostly students) enjoyed some morning puck at the annual IceMen Education Day Game. The team lost 4-2 to Greenville, but the kids had a ton of fun regardless!
2. Sat. Oct. 13: The painfully-long off-season came to an end on a beautiful fall evening when 8886 fans watched the IceMen and Komets in Evansville’s home opener. Unfortunately, the visitors prevailed 6-2.
3. Sat. Mar. 23: Evansville’s home finale was against another division rival, as Kalamazoo came to town for the season’s last game at the Ford Center. The K-Wings won 5-2 in front of 8715 Maniacs.
4. Sat. Jan. 26: Any Saturday night home game against the Komets is a special attraction that draws thousands of IceMen fans and usually a few folks from Fort Wayne as well, and this was no exception. However, the IceMen fell 4-2, much to the dismay of (most of the) 8213 fans.
5. Sat. Dec. 1: The annual “Pack the House Night” produced the largest crowd that actually saw a home victory this season. Though the house wasn’t quite fully packed, a vocal throng of 8019 cheered the IceMen on to a 3-2 win over Kalamazoo.
TOP 5 POTENTIAL RETURNEES
Usually, a last-place team will undergo a tremendous amount of roster turnover prior to the next season. The 2013-14 IceMen will probably look a lot different than the 2012-13 edition, but there were certainly some members of the latter who earned a shot at another season in Evansville.
Here are 5 IceMen-owned players who finished the season in Evansville and warrant serious consideration for another year in town…
1. Dylan Clarke (F): After racking up 64 points with Tulsa in the CHL during his rookie season, Clarke took a step up to the ECHL for 2012-13. The season began dreadfully, as the South Carolina Stingrays waived him after he produced just 3 points in 16 games. Immediately claimed by Evansville, the Ontario native quickly returned to form in a scoring-line role with the IceMen – to the tune of 49 points in 50 games, tying for the team lead with 22 goals. He notched his third career hat trick on March 13 at Fort Wayne, and he authored a trio of 4-point games as well. With impressive speed and dynamic skills, Clarke undoubtedly has the talent to be a top-line ECHL forward for years to come.
2. Daniel Tetrault (D): The 33-year old blueliner was the epitome of “reliable” in 2012-13, one of few IceMen players who managed to stay healthy all season. He also just so happened to be pretty darn good. Among all ECHL defensemen, Tetrault finished 4th with 38 points and 2nd with 14 goals – the most times he’s lit the lamp since the 2005-06 season. The 13-year veteran also proved to be a valuable leader, taking over as IceMen Captain following the departure of Todd Robinson. In addition to being honored as the team’s Most Outstanding Defenseman, he also earned the team’s “Player’s Player Award” as determined by his peers. Simply put, the passionate Tetrault brings a mix of skill and experience that you can build a successful roster around.
3. Jason Dale (F): A classic case of a smaller player who “plays big,” Dale did pretty much everything for the IceMen except play goalie. He generally played center and consistently won face-offs, occasionally played wing and threw his 5’11″ 190-pound frame around in the corners to win battles against much larger adversaries, and even spent several games playing defense. He was a disciplined player on a team that often committed bad penalties, an “energy guy” who deservedly won the team’s “Mr. Hustle Award,” a stellar first-unit penalty killer, and a significant contributor offensively with 39 points (4th on the team) in a team-leading 70 games. In a nutshell, Dale is the type of do-it-all player every good team needs.
4. Josh Beaulieu (F): You might call Beaulieu a “late bloomer.” You might also call him a man who just needed to find his hockey home. After three lackluster seasons in the AHL and a mediocre season in the CHL with Rapid City, Beaulieu came to Evansville in 2011-12 and posted a career-best 48 points. Moving up to the ECHL with the IceMen in 2012-13, he then got even better – racking up 52 points in 56 games (including a pair of 4-point nights) before his season came to an abrupt halt due to the aforementioned season-ending wrist laceration. Though the severity of his injury casts some doubt on his availability for the start of the 2013-14 season, the veteran power forward who was named Team MVP absolutely should be on Evansville’s radar if his off-season rehab goes well.
5. Matt Gens (D): The 2012-13 season is probably one that Matt Gens would like to forget. Limited to just 33 games due to a hip injury that affected his play and prematurely ended his season, the 7-year veteran posted a career-low in points (16) and a career-worst plus/minus rating (-17). To say the least, it was a disappointing follow-up to a 47-point 2011-12 season in which Gens earned a trip to the CHL All-Star Game. With his hip now surgically repaired, Gens will hope to refine his game and rediscover his All-Star caliber play in 2013-14. Though fellow defensemen Jake Obermeyer and Matt Krug are certainly worthy of consideration as well, Gens has a higher ceiling when healthy and could still be a game-changer on the blueline.
TOP 5 FRESH FACES
Several promising young prospects came to Evansville this season by way of the team’s parent clubs, but the team also featured some quality rookies that weren’t provided by affiliates.
These 5 Evansville-contracted rookies just might be worth a roster spot next season…
1. James Reid (G): Acquired by Evansville at the trade deadline after both of the team’s goaltenders were called up to the AHL on the same day, Reid just wanted a chance to play on a consistent basis – and that’s exactly what he got, starting every game the IceMen played after he joined the team. He had been a workhorse in juniors, playing 128 games over 3 WHL seasons with an 85-30-9 record, 13 shutouts, a 2.34 GAA and a .917 SV%. Reid then made his pro debut with Alaska at the end of the 2011-12 ECHL season, with a strong 2.09 GAA and a .910 SV% in 9 appearances. He even earned ECHL Goaltender of the Week honors in March, and seemed poised to be at the top of the Aces’ depth chart in 2012-13. But after playing just twice in October, he suffered a high-ankle sprain that limited him to just 15 minutes of additional action until he came to Evansville. Reid made his IceMen debut on March 8 and initially struggled while shaking off the rust, with a 4.62 GAA and an .873 SV% in his first 6 starts. However, in his final 6 appearances, he was much better – a 2.99 GAA and a .909 SV%, including the shared shutout with Kevin Moore in the season finale. Perhaps there will be better goaltending options available this off-season, but Reid’s name should at least be in the discussion.
2. Aaron Gens (D): The younger Gens got off to a rough start and ultimately played just 28 games, finishing the season on the shelf due to a concussion. But with 9 points in the last 9 games prior to his season-ending “conky” (his term), Aaron started to look a lot like the healthy All-Star version of older brother Matt. He was named IceMen Rookie of the Year, and was also honored with the team’s Community Service Award for his work off the ice. Concussions are always tricky and the persistence of his symptoms is a source of concern, but a clear-headed Gens would be a nice piece of the puzzle on defense in 2013-14.
3. Donnie Harris (D): In his second pro season and his first with significant time in the ECHL, Harris proved himself to be a solid contributor on defense. Signed in early January after starting the season in the SPHL, Harris took advantage of the opportunity and turned what appeared to be a brief stint as an injury replacement into a full-time role for the rest of the season. He played 34 games for the IceMen, most among all Evansville-contracted rookies. Though not a flashy player offensively (he only scored 5 points), Harris was disciplined (just 14 penalty minutes) and steady defensively. Despite an ugly finish (he was scoreless and -13 in March), Harris could still be a decent third-pairing option in the future.
4. Adam Pleskach (F): With the IceMen mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, Pleskach joined the team straight out of college for the season’s final 10 games. After leading American International College in scoring during all four of his years there, the rookie came to Evansville and picked up right where he left off. With 8 points, he was the top-scoring IceMen-contracted rookie forward in 2012-13 despite being with the team for less than 3 weeks. It may have been a relatively small sample size, but the energetic Pleskach showed that he has the talent to succeed as a pro too.
5. Chris Markiewicz (D): Like Pleskach, Markiewicz joined the IceMen on an Amateur Try-Out for the team’s last 10 games after completing his NCAA Division I career at American International College. A consistently-productive defenseman at AIC, Markiewicz only registered a single point with Evansville but did a lot of good things that don’t show up on the scoresheet. He finished the season +1 thanks to gritty but responsible play and a strong ability to read the game. While he may not light up the scoresheet, Markiewicz appears to have the tools to be a solid professional.
TOP 5 TRIVIA TIDBITS
Evansville’s third-period struggles in 2012-13 were well-documented. The IceMen were out-scored 106-64 in the final frame, the worst goal differential for any team in any period. (No other ECHL team allowed more than 100 goals in any period.) Evansville failed to win 8 times when leading after 2 periods (the most blown leads in the league) and had an abysmal 2-30-0 record when trailing after 2 periods (only Fort Wayne was worse at 1-26-1). Because the team was behind late in so many games, the IceMen surrendered a league-high 12 empty-net goals.
Here are 5 more pieces of trivia about the 2012-13 IceMen season…
1. And the Award Goes To: Dylan Clarke and Kevin Baker were the only two IceMen players who earned weekly/monthly ECHL awards in 2012-13. Clarke was named Player of the Week for the first week of December, after racking up 7 points and a +6 rating in a 3-game stretch. Baker earned Player of the Week honors for the second week of February, also with 7 points in 3 games. Had he not left the team at month’s end to go play for the Arizona Sundogs in the CHL, Baker also likely would have been a prime candidate for the ECHL Player of the Month Award in February. Though not nominated by the IceMen due to his departure, Baker’s 17 points in 12 February games surely would have earned him some votes if he had been in the running.
2. Minus A Lot: Todd Robinson, another veteran who finished the season in the CHL (with the Allen Americans), was very good in the offensive zone but downright atrocious at the defensive end. He led the entire ECHL with 61 assists, topped the team with 68 points, and spearheaded the IceMen power-play with 31 man-advantage assists (most in the league). But he was as much of a liability defensively as he was an asset offensively. Robinson’s plus/minus of -35 was the worst among all 985 skaters who played an ECHL game during the 2012-13 season.
3. One-On-One: Evansville was one of just two ECHL teams (Colorado being the other) that was never awarded a penalty shot during the 2012-13 season. There were 58 total penalty shots throughout the league, with Utah enjoying the most attempts (5). Penalty shot shooters were just 9-for-58 (15.5%), including 0-for-5 in overtime. IceMen goaltenders did successfully face two penalty shots – Allen York stopped Cincinnati’s John McFarland on November 30, and Paul Dainton denied Fort Wayne’s Jean-Michel Rizk on February 16.
4. Go To The Box & Feel Shame: The IceMen were the ECHL’s 9th-most penalized team, but 2nd in the Eastern Conference (behind only Fort Wayne). In terms of power-play differential (power-play opportunities compared to times short-handed), the Komets (-75) and IceMen (-42) were the league’s two worst teams. The Indiana rivals also didn’t help themselves when actually afforded power-plays, as Evansville and Fort Wayne tied for the most short-handed goals allowed with 15 each.
5. Exchanging Pleasantries: Evansville earned 39 Fighting Majors in 2012-13, with 16 different players dropping the gloves at least once. Mark Cody was the team’s most active combatant with 7 fights, including 2 in a 6-1 home victory over Fort Wayne on the day after (go figure) Valentine’s Day. The other IceMen who fought more than twice were Daniel Tetrault (5), Matt Krug (4), Cody Beach and Aaron Gens (3 each). Evansville engaged in fisticuffs with the Komets 13 times, Cincinnati 9 times, and Toledo 5 times. Despite playing 12 games against division rival Kalamazoo, the IceMen and K-Wings only fought once all season.