Five games into the 2008-09 season, it was safe to say Malcolm Cameron wasn't going to coast to a South Division title with the Florida Everblades the way he did the previous season with his former club, the Texas Wildcatters.
The Everblades were just 2-2-1 after their first five contests under Cameron, floating around the .500 mark as they searched for an identity.
Now, Florida is on cruise control.
The Everblades have played 15 games since that opening five-game stretch, and they've won 13 of them. Out of a possible 30 points, Florida has racked up 27. The 13-1-1 stretch has the Everblades atop the South Division, six points ahead of the second-place South Carolina Stingrays. Their 32 points trail only the Johnstown Chiefs (38) for the most in the American Conference.
Florida (15-3-2) faces a good test this weekend, as the Stingrays will visit Germain Arena on Friday night in the first of a two-game series. Florida has outscored its opponents 86-43 this season.
All this, despite the recent completion of a nine-game, 19-day road trip.
"We have a good team, a deep team and guys are committed to winning hockey games," Cameron told the Fort Myers News-Press. "We're pleased where we're at."
Much of Florida's success has to do with a record-setting November, as the Everblades were 11-1-0 with five shutouts. They outscored their opponents 57-18 last month.
-- who joined the Everblades after playing under Cameron with Texas last season -- was named the RBC Financial Group ECHL Saver of the Month for November after going 7-0-0 with a 1.34 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage. He posted three consecutive shutouts and did not allow a goal for 214:19.
Now, Khudobin and the Everblades have a chance to widen the gap between themselves and the Stingrays this weekend. It certainly is an opportunity for them to send a message that they are the team to beat in the South.
"These two games are really important for us," Khudobin told the Naples Daily News. "It feels good to be the first team in the division. We want to stay ahead, so nobody will catch us."
Looking to add weapons as the season progresses, Florida has taken advantage of the loss of the Augusta Lynx, who recently folded due to financial troubles. The Everblades signed Augusta's leading scorer, right wing Matt Auffrey
, as well as 6-foot-6 power forward Patrick Bordeleau
, who recently was reassigned to the club by Albany of the American Hockey League. He had 10 points and 57 penalty minutes in 18 games for the Lynx.
Even though Florida's loss is Augusta's gain from a roster standpoint, Cameron -- who was forced to find work when Texas bolted its doors -- understands the loss of the Lynx means Florida ownership must shell out more money in travel expenses.
"We’re definitely disappointed," Cameron said. "Five teams can make it a little tenuous."
Will Augusta come back?
-- Hockey may be back in Augusta as early as next fall, but it probably won't be the ECHL brand.
Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) Commissioner Jim Combs told the Augusta Chronicle this week he would love to have a team in Augusta by next October. The sticking point, of course, is finding someone who is willing to own a team there.
"We're going to do our best to put a team in there next year if we can find the right ownership group," Combs said. "Have I talked with a few groups of people about putting a team in Augusta? Yes, but nobody has put their name on a piece of paper saying, 'I want to own a team in Augusta.'
"That takes time. It doesn't move that fast."
"We have a good team, a deep team and guys are committed to winning hockey games. We're pleased where we're at." -- Malcolm Cameron
-- Former Wheeling Nailers forward Tim Wallace
joined an emerging group this week when he was promoted to the Pittsburgh Penguins
Wallace, 24, became the 13th Alaska native to reach the NHL. He spent all of last season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL. He had 17 points in 19 games for Wheeling in 2006-07.
Including Wallace, seven of those 13 players currently are in the NHL, and they're all from Anchorage -- Scott Gomez
(New York Rangers
), Ty Conklin
(Detroit Red Wings
), Brandon Dubinsky
(Rangers), Matt Carle
), Joseph Crabb
) and Nate Thompson
(New York Islanders
Wallace spent four years at the University of Notre Dame before splitting time with Wheeling and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2006-07. He had 7 points and 31 penalty minutes in 21 games this season for the Baby Pens before getting the call he's always wanted.
"You try not to think about it too much,'' Wallace told the Anchorage Daily News. "I just tried to get better on a day-in, day-out basis. You just hope to do well and stick up here.''
Around the ECHL
-- Cincinnati Cyclones forward Mark Santorelli
was promoted to AHL Milwaukee, while defenseman Joe Ryan
was recalled by the AHL Toronto Marlies. ... Rookies Cody Wild
and Ryan Huddy
were reassigned from AHL Springfield to the Stockton Thunder. ... Las Vegas Wranglers goaltender Brent Krahn
was reassigned to the AHL Chicago Wolves by the Dallas Stars
. The Wranglers also acquired defenseman Steve Makway from Cincinnati to complete the Nov. 17 trade that sent goaltender Martin Houle
to the Cyclones. ... Rookie defenseman Josh Engel
returned to the Gwinnett Gladiators from AHL Providence. ... Victoria Salmon Kings defenseman Travis Ramsey
was recalled by the AHL Manitoba Moose. ... The AHL Syracuse Crunch sent rookie forwards Blair Yaworski
and Ryan Garlock
to Johnstown. ... Goaltender Ryan Munce
was promoted from the Mississippi Sea Wolves to Syracuse. ... AHL Toronto reassigned forward Max Taylor
to the Reading Royals. ... Gwinnett's Brad Schell
was named the In Glas Co ECHL Player of the Week after tallying 7 points in four games for the Gladiators. ... Fresno Falcons forward Oren Eizenman
was recalled by AHL San Antonio.
Contact Brian Compton at email@example.com.