East Wins ECHL All-Star Tourney

The Eastern Conference won the 2019 CCM/ECHL All-Star Classic tonight in exciting fashion. They won 2-1 in a sudden death shootout after the final game ended in a 1-1 tie.

The ECHL All-Star game features the now-familiar NHL/AHL mini tournament format with a few twists. For one, the four teams participating were not divisions, but rather the Eastern and Western Conferences along with two teams made up of the split-squad Toledo Walleye. The Walleye were hosting the game at their Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio.

The four teams (dubbed the “East,” “West,” “Fins” and “Hooks”) competed in a round-robin style opening round with total goals then leading to a second round reseeding where the finals were determined. The Skills Competion also awarded goals to this aggregate score: the Fastest Skater was first and awarded one goal, then the Hardest Shot which gave two goals and finally, the Shot Accuracy, which awarded three goals to the winning player’s team.

The final then featured the two best teams going head-to-head with the score reset to zero. In the event of a tie, there would be a sudden death shootout. All games were contested with a running clock, no faceoffs after goals (the team scored on would simply skate the puck out from behind their net) and no penalties (in the event of a penalty, the player drawing the penalty would skate the puck into the offensive zone from his own blue line with the rest of the players chasing him in a sort-of breakaway). Every game was also contested three-on-three. Got all of that?

The first game of the round robin featured the Hooks versus the East. Shane Berschbach scored first for Team Hooks and the game winner came of the stick of Matt Register as the Hooks defeated the East 2-1. Joe Cox (of the Florida Everblades) had the lone goal for the Eastern Conference.

The second game saw the West overcome Team Fins 3-1. AJ Jenks got the scoring off to a start for the Fins but three straight unanswered by the West saw them pull out the victory. Justin Hodgman of the Fort Wayne Komets had two goals while Alex Brooks (Indy Fuel) scored an insurance goal.

Game number three saw the Fins overcome the East 3-2. Bryan Moore, Charlie O’Connor and Jenks each scored for Team Fins while Cox and David Pacan (of the Brampton Beast) scored for the East. This game was notable because a goal was actually waved off during play, something you are not likely to see in many All-Star Games.

It was here that the first skills competition took place, the Fastest Skater event. Moore won this one for the Fins with a time of 12.97 seconds on his full lap around the rink. Fins earned a goal for this win.

The East met the West in the next game with the East winning 3-1. Jalen Smereck (Norfolk Admirals), Mike Szmatula of the Adirondack Thunder and Dajon Mingo of the Jacksonville Icemen tallied three straight for the East while Steven Iacobellis (Wichita Thunder) scored for the West.

The final game of the round-robin saw the Toldeo Walleye explode as Team Hooks faced off with Team Fins. The Fins won 5-1. Moore, Jenks, O’Connor, TJ Hensick and Dylan Sadowy scored for Team Fins while the Hooks got a lone goal from Register.

At this point it was Fins leading with ten total goals, the West with seven, the East with six and Hooks pulling up the rear with four. The hardest shot competition (worth two goals) was next up. This was won by Jenks who put Fins up with 12 goals when he won with a shot of 99 miles per hour.

The next two games were set up by reseeding the teams based on goals scored and would set up the finals. The Hooks beat the Fins in the first game, 3-1 with Team Fins finishing with 13 goals while Team Hooks finished with seven. In this particular game, Moore scored for Fins while Trevor Yates had two goals and Greg Wolfe also scored for Team Hooks to give them the victory. Despite that loss, Fins were still headed to the finals with a total of 13 goals.

The next game featured the East against the West again. This was an exciting one as the East edged the West 4-3 as Szmatula scored the game winner on a breakaway with time running out. Smereck had two goals for the East and Mingo also added one while Jared VanWormer of the Kansas City Mavericks scored twice and Iacobellis scored once for the West. With that, the East and West were tied in the standings with ten goals each.

The other seeding in the finals could all come down to the shot accuracy event in the final skills competition of the night. Sure enough, with three goals on the line, Pacan (who would be named the game’s MVP) hit four targets on only six attempts and moved the East ahead of the West with 13 goals to the West’s ten. The East was headed to the finals to face Team Fins.

We now reset the score to zero and the two teams had this game to decide things. Connor Schmidt scored for the Fins while Andrew Cherniwchan of the South Carolina Stingrays scored for the East. Time ran out with those two goals being the only scored and we were headed to an unique event: the sudden death shootout.

Mingo converted on his only shot while Jenks could not keep things going for the Fins and the Eastern Conference won the 2019 ECHL All-Star Classic.

Overall, this was a cool event with a lot of cool ideas. Next up we will get coverage of the NHL All-Star Game up as well as the Skills Competition. Those take place Friday and Saturday.