The ECHL Hits the Halfway Point
With plenty of focus on the NHL and AHL all star breaks, there’s also a place with slightly less fanfare that’s also approaching it’s halfway point; the ECHL. With the Cincinnati Cyclones finally playing their 36th game Friday night, every team has hit the halfway point in the league.
Going into play Saturday night, the Flyers ECHL affiliate, the Trenton Titans, sit in last place in the Eastern Conference with 15-19-3-3 record. While 36 points may seem weak, the team’s low total is misleading as they are just five points out of a playoff position.
Right now, the Titans seem to have righted the ship as top defenseman Tyler Hostetter has returned from injury with strong play. Newly-acquired defenseman Ray DiLauro has also been a strong blue line presence with a goal and 10 assists in 16 games since signing with Trenton.
Up front, the recently acquired Steve Silva has been a dynamic playmaker with 10 assists and 14 points in 16 games. Also, linemates Rob Bordson (13-18-31 in 26 games) and Ryan Hayes (12-16-28 in 33 games with Trenton) have developed deep chemistry with each other regardless of who the third forward on their line is. In fact, in most cases, these two elevate whomever they play with on a nightly basis.
The Titans goaltending, a weakness in the early part of the season, has started to stay consistent. Starting goalie Dave Caruso has delivered some solid performances recently and upped his season save percentage to a respectable .904.
Right now, the two places where the Titans need the most help are depth scoring and depth defenseman. The Titans are without forwards Matt Germain and Denny Kearney for the foreseeable future due to injuries sustained about a week ago.
Germain had just started to come along after a slow start before ending up on the 21-day injured reserve list. Kearney was one of the Titans better faceoff takers, his two-way play and depth scoring will missed. However, with Luke Pither arriving from the Adirondack Phantoms, there’s hope that the forwards can turn things around.
On the blueline, Chris Berenguer is still out with a concussion and Mitch Versteeg just went down with an undisclosed injury landing him on the 21-day injured reserve. While Stephen Mallaro has been a decent addition to the third pair, the Titans defense sorely misses Versteeg’s big slap shot and big-hitting ability.
With that, at the halfway point, it’s safe to hand out some Titans team awards for the first half:
Team MVP: Randy Rowe
The team captain, he’s a blue collar player cut from the same mold that made Mike Richards an NHL star. Rowe is gritty, physical and plays every shift at 100%. He’s missed a few games due to injury, but he’s been the cornerstone of the Titans this season.
Most Improved: Eric Baier
Baier was a healthy scratch very early in the season. However, as injuries and call-ups happened, Baier got a chance to play and he ran with it. Baier is not the biggest defenseman by any stretch, but he can out skate most players.
He uses this speed to cover a lot of ground and finesse the puck up the ice. As his confidence built up, he’s even joined the rush including getting a shorthanded breakaway and scoring a highlight reel goal earlier this season.
Best Defenseman: Mitch Versteeg
Versteeg is the defenseman that does it all for Trenton. He can move the puck, throw big hits, blocks a lot shots, and he can fight. Many times, when the Titans need to shutdown the opponents or score a big goal, he finds himself on the ice.
Biggest Surprise: Corey Syvret
Many Flyers fans probably remember Danny Syvret, but his brother Corey plays a different type of game. Danny’s puck moving, offense-first style is completely the opposite of Corey’s clear the crease, more physical, defense-first mentality.