ECHL: Central Division preview

By Frank Seravalli

Hockey’s Future Magazine & Publishing

Augusta Lynx


many financial debacles and issues in the Augusta organization, the Lynx hit
the ice in mid-October ready to play. Frank Lawrence has finally become the new
majority owner of the Augusta Lynx. Lawrence has paid $1.17 million to become
the team’s new owner, but he admits it will be a challenge to get fans in the


One area Lawrence isn’t concerned about is
the hockey side of the Lynx operations, where he said he is excited about the
Lynx “returning to the top of the ECHL,” under new coach Stan Drulia. Drulia
has already contributed to the Lynx organization, bringing the Lynx together
with the NHL’s Florida Panthers and their AHL affiliate the San Antonio
Rampage. Drulia, who has connections with the Panthers GM Rick Dudley, joins
the team from Orlando of the ACHL, where he won a championship as a rookie


On the ice, look for the
Lynx to move up quite a bit in the standings. In goal, the Lynx have signed
ECHL veteran Jason Saal, and Peter Hamerick was assigned from
Boston. Look out for rookie forwards Greg Jacina and Jonathan Gagnon
to step it up and produce. Jacina is under Florida contract. Leading the way at
forward will be Matt Dzieduszycki who saw significant action with the
Syracuse Crunch of the AHL last season.


Columbus Cottonmouths


The Cottonmouths will start
off the 2003-2004 season fresh. With a new coach, some new players, and a new
attitude, the Cottonmouths are looking to turn around the program after a
disappointing season. Last season, the Cottonmouths ended up near the bottom of
the barrel in the ECHL, finishing with a disappointing 58 points.


Former NHL player Brian
Curran will be leading the Cottonmouths behind the bench this season. Curran
was rewarded the position of Head Coach and Director of Player Personnel in
July. Curran certainly has good credentials for the job. Last season he was
named ACHL Coach of the Year after leading Macon to a third-place finish and a
playoff berth.


As far as the on ice
product, rookie Olivier Michaud will be in between the pipes for the
Cottonmouths. Michaud, fresh out of the QMJHL will be looked upon in times of
need this season. 6’3” rookie Christian Larrive will be counted upon for
scoring the big goals. Larrive, who had 100 points in his third season in the
QMJHL, disappointed folks with a 58 point effort in his fourth season. Fifth
round NHL selection Matt Shasby will be another one to watch during the
upcoming year. Shasby, a defenseman, has great hands and incredible puck
skills. The Cottonmouths are a very young team, and they lack experience.


Gwinnett Gladiators


Even though the Gwinnett
Gladiators are technically a relocating team, the team had to significantly
rebuild itself after taking a year hiatus to complete the moving process. The
former Mobile Mysticks players were considered free agents and allowed to sign
with any ECHL team. In essence, the Gladiators will be starting this season
from scratch.


Coming over with the team
from Mobile was head coach Jeff Pyle, who brings along with him his four years
of ECHL head coaching experience, all from Mobile. Pyle led the Mobile Mysticks
to a Kelly Cup Playoffs berth in three of his four seasons there.


The Gladiators roster is
solid. Standout youngsters include Chris Goodjohn and Randy Dagenais,
both from Union College. The rookies will make their professional debut with
the Gladiators in the upcoming season. Goodjohn, a 6’0” 200 lb. forward, also
an assistant captain last season, tallied 5 power play goals and 3 game winning
goals for Union (ECAC) last season. His strengths include faceoffs and playing
well in his own zone. Dagenais, a gritty two-way defenseman, notched 2 goals
and 17 assists during his senior season at Union College. So far, Dagenais is
leading all Gladiators defensemen in scoring. Goodjohn attended the AHL’s Grand
Rapids Griffins training camp, and Dagenais attended the Washington Capitals
rookie camp this year.  Dagenais starts
the season on the IR.


Gwinnett’s new NHL affiliate
has assigned three players, including goaltender Michael Garnett and
defenseman Paul Flache, both of whom played with the Greenville Grrrowl
last season.  Anthony Aquino,
originally a Dallas pick, is assigned at forward.


Louisiana Ice Gators


The Louisiana Ice Gators are
entering the 2003-2004 season with high expectations. After finishing last
season tied for the Southwest Division lead, the Ice Gators would certainly
like to surpass their previous accomplishments, but this time in a new


Dave Farrish enters his
fourth season with the club as head coach. No ECHL coach has more wins in the
last three seasons. Prior to coming to Louisiana, Farrish spent three seasons
with the AHL’s Springfield Falcons.


Achieving the same success
that the Ice Gators did last year will not be easy. Jamie Johnson will
be relied on heavily this year in this, his first year of professional hockey.
The 5’11” inch forward has spent the last five years playing juniors in the
OHL. Last season, Johnson was one of just 6 players to notch 100 points in the
OHL. Johnson’s 76 assists were tied for second-most in the league. Brian
will also share the scoring workload this season. A rookie out of
Quinnipiac University, Herbert was the third highest-scoring player in NCAA
Division I over the past four seasons, registering 169 points in 136 games.


If the ‘Gators would like to
return to the Kelly Cup Playoffs for another shot at glory, they will need good
coaching as well as a good foundation of defense.


Mississippi Sea Wolves


The Mississippi Sea Wolves
enter their eighth season in the ECHL in 2003-2004 with a “boatload” of
excitement. Mississippi head coach Bob Woods will be looked upon for another
conference winning season.


Although Woods has lost a
few players, they still have a core of veteran players, with a nice mix of
rookies. One of the players that will really need to step it up this year is Sergei
. Sergei had a decent season last year, posting 42 points in 58
games, but he will need to prove himself if he would like to move beyond the
ECHL level. In addition, former OHL product Travis Lisabeth has to
continue to play consistently. Travis only missed two games last season, and it
is always a plus to have a healthy guy in the lineup at all times.


Pending their consistency
during the season, the Sea Wolves should definitely compete for the Central
Division title, as well as the Kelly Cup.


Pensacola Ice Pilots


there’s one word to describe the look of the Pensacola Ice Pilots heading into
the regular season, that word is “new.” Tim Kerr, former Philadelphia
Flyer, is now the sole owner of the team. Kerr decided to retain Head Coach
Todd Gordon after he led the team to two straight Kelly Cup Playoffs. 

there is a lot of tinkering yet to be accomplished, a few personnel decisions
have already been made. Team captain and leading scorer Greg Pankewicz was let
go as well as the team’s second leading scorer Louis Dumont and starting
goaltender Maxime Gingras.

for the returning players, look for Jaime Herrington and newcomer Tyler
to lead the attack on offense. After being out with a knee injury
for some time last year, Herrington has started the season on the 30 day
Injured Reserve. Look for Herrington to bounce back with the vigor and great
sight he is known for. Beechey, on the other hand, spent last year with the
Trenton Titans and a short stint in Providence of the AHL. He will be asked to
be the setup man on the powerplay. On the back end, size seems to be the trend.
Newcomers Mike Jones, Corey Nielson, Kent Sauer, Pete Summerfelt, Doug
Schueller, Tyler Kindle
average out with returnee Jeremy Van Hoof
for a robust team average of 6’3″ 225.

has cleaned house this offseason and will have a much younger team than in
previous years. “I wanted to start rolling four lines this year and using
our size to our advantage and I think some of the new players will certainly
help us obtain that goal,” Gordon said.




Texas Wildcatters are one of the many additions to the ECHL this season. The
Wildcatters have begun their inaugural quest, but their first home game is not
until November 8th. Behind the bench this season will be Robert
Dirk, who is also the Director of Hockey Operations.


is returning to coaching after spending the past season as the Vice President of
Hockey Operations in the WCHL, which ceases to exist. Dirk’s hockey accolades
include two seasons as head coach of the Tacoma Sabercats (WCHL), and three
seasons with the Winston-Salem Icehawks, where he won UHL Coach of the Year
honors in 1998.


Wildcatters have a good deal of young talent on the roster. Cory Morgan
has begun the season on fire, netting eight points in five games, leading the
Wildcatters. Tim Branham is a big, young defenseman that plays great in
his own zone. Davis Parley is a very up and coming goaltender for the
Wildcatters. His consistent play is a huge bonus, and he has great position
along with good puck handling skills.


team seems to be set for the future, but don’t look for the Wildcatters to go
very far this season as an expansion team.