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Carlson putting himself in winning place

by Lindsay Kramer
Even as a third-year pro, Florida Everglades forward Ross Carlson can learn something from the up-and-comers.

Carlson spent part of last summer skating with a high school team near his native Duluth, Minn. He obviously had way more skill than any of his workout mates, so what would be the point of showing off?

Instead, he tried a couple things he hoped would help his game. First, he stayed up high more than usual, trying to get a better overview of plays as they unfolded and working on his shot. When he wanted to switch things up, he tethered himself to the crease so that he'd be more comfortable facing the puck and lining up tip-ins.

"I never put two and two together on where I should be," he said of his previous seasons. "You kind of lose (the basics) along the way. You try too hard to do something, it never works. You have to be like, what got me here?"

The same things that are now getting Carlson points, and lots of them. The Everblades' captain went 28-25 this regular season, by far a pro high. The numbers also reflect a sense of finding the right time and place in the bigger picture, as well.

Carlson skated for three teams each of his first two seasons pro. In 2007-08, he was with Rockford and Houston of the AHL and Texas of the ECHL (18-20). Last season he got looks with Peoria and Rochester of the AHL and then Florida (14-22).

This year he never left the Everblades, which was a tough turn from a promotion point of view, but one that was a boon for his production.

"Sticking with one team, one team's system, knowing the players you are playing with, that's had a lot to do with it," he said of his career year. "That (moving around) wears on you over the course of the season. Your head's not racing all over the map, trying to figure out where you need to fit in. I think it's been a pretty good year for me, overall."
Jackpot for Kissel -- Bakersfield forward Dan Kissel was one of those lucky visitors who hit it big in Las Vegas this year. His payoff had nothing to do with a slot machine or a roulette wheel. It came in the form of a contract.

Kissel finished his career at Notre Dame this season and was looking to grab some attention in the pros. The Condors said sure thing and told him to meet them for a mid-March three-game stretch in Vegas.

Kissel scored a goal in his first game, looked pretty good in the next two and stuck around ever since.

"I was definitely nervous. It was kind of like a tryout," said Kissel, 23. "It was exciting. It happened real fast. I'm glad they asked me back."

Kissel rewarded Bakersfield's faith with a breakout offensive season in a matter of a few weeks. He chipped in with 7 goals and 1 assist in 11 games to close out the regular season, compared to 4-4 total in 38 games with the Fighting Irish this year. He scored more than seven markers in a season there just once, potting nine in 43 games as a sophomore.

"I've always been an offensive player. College is very defensive," he said. "I guess I was more of a defensive player when I was there. We had a bunch of goal-scorers on the team. Then I came here and excelled. It's definitely a little different. I'm enjoying it."
Nailed in place -- The Wheeling Nailers calmed nerves in the area by announcing last week that they would return for their 19th ECHL season in 2010-11.

The word comes as neighboring franchise Johnstown closed shop for good at the end of the regular season. The Nailers will help fill that void by playing a few of their games at the Cambria County War Memorial Coliseum in Johnstown next year. Wheeling owners Rob and Jim Brooks grew up less than one hour from Johnstown.

"The key for Rob and I was being able to keep hockey in Wheeling, and now with less games in Wheeling we hope the lower priced season ticket packages will become even more affordable for our fans and at the same time allow for a better game schedule for families and individuals in our community to attend more regularly," Jim Brooks said in a statement.

Wheeling had the third-lowest attendance in the ECHL this season, at 2,727 per game.
Around the ECHL -- On the final day of the 2009-10 regular season, three ECHL teams welcomed sellout crowds to push the total number of sellouts in the league to 51. Elmira and Toledo tied with a league-leading 12 sellouts each. Overall, nearly 3.3 million fans attended 720 games during the season for an average of 4,485 fans per game, an increase of 10.7 percent from last year. ...The ECHL's three 100-point scorers - Elmira's Tyler and Justin Donati and Utah's Ryan Kinasewich - are the most in the league in one season since 1997-98, when seven players reached the century mark. ... Justin Donati passed 100 points on April 2, joining twin brother Tyler above the century mark. The Donatis are the first brothers in professional hockey history to each score 100 points on the same team in the same season. ... Toledo forward Adam Keefe netted four goals in the first two games of his team's playoff series against Charlotte after scoring just two in 24 regular-season games with the Walleye. ... Stockton forward Kelly Czuy recorded a goal and an assist in a Game 2 win over Alaska on April 6. The multi-point game gave him 19 points in 15 career first rounds games with Stockton and Las Vegas. ... With an assist against Victoria in Game 1 of their playoff series April 7, forward Andrew Ianiero became the Condors' all-time leader with 26 playoff points. He is also the franchise leader in games played with 34. ... First-round playoff opponents South Carolina and Cincinnati have plenty of recent postseason history. The Stingrays beat the Cyclones in the 2009 conference finals in 2009 en route to their third Kelly Cup Championship; Cincinnati beat South Carolina in the conference finals in 2008 en route to its first Kelly Cup. ... Las Vegas, which opens with Utah, has won its last four first-round playoff series. ... Alaska is 6-0 all-time in first round playoff series. ... Victoria set an ECHL mark for fewest penalty minutes in a year with 922. The previous record was 1,066, set by Florida in 199-2000. ... James Bates' 73 points tied the Stockton single-season club record held by Ryan Huddy (2008-09). ... Bakersfield ended the regular season 7-0 on home ice in overtime and shootouts. ... Eric Regan became the third defenseman in Condors history to crack the 50-point barrier with his assist against Idaho on April 2. ... Gwinnett is missing the playoffs for the first time in its seven-year history. ... Charlotte tied a team record with 94 points this season.

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