Way Down on the Farm: ECHL's IceMen Feeling the Pain

The Evansville IceMen, Columbus' ECHL affiliate, are keeping the ship afloat despite a recent tidal wave of injuries and player call-ups.

According to the latest update on ManGamesLost.com, the Blue Jackets are currently 5th in the NHL in man-games lost to injury this season. Such health problems always lead to a "trickle-up" effect on rosters throughout the organization, which means Columbus' AHL and ECHL affiliates (the Springfield Falcons and Evansville IceMen, respectively) have felt the Blue Jackets' pain as well.

At the bottom of the food chain, Evansville has also had an unhealthy helping of its own pain to deal with. The IceMen have lost 59 man-games to injury this season, and that total does not include the losses of key players called up to the AHL due to injuries elsewhere.

As a result, Evansville's active roster currently features four players signed away from the Single-A SPHL (including the starting goaltender), two players who weren't even playing pro hockey when the season began (including the backup goaltender), and one player on loan from the Dallas Stars who is now with his 7th pro team in his 4th season.

The roster volatility has produced quite the rollercoaster ride in recent weeks. In their past 21 games, the streaky IceMen have put together (in chronological order) an 8-game point streak, a 3-game losing streak, a 4-game winning streak, another 3-game losing streak, and a 3-game point streak.

Despite all of the injuries and call-ups, Evansville is 14-7-4 and just 2 points behind North Division leading Cincinnati, with one game in-hand on the rival Cyclones. The IceMen have the fourth-best winning percentage in the ECHL's Eastern Conference, and will now enjoy the benefit of playing 15 of their next 19 games at home.

Following are updates about the players under contract to Columbus or Springfield who have spent time in Evansville this season, as well as a few IceMen-contracted players who are worth keeping an eye on...

FORWARDS:

• Rookie Jeremy Langlois (SPR) has been Evansville's most dynamic scoring threat since being sent down in early November. He leads the IceMen in scoring with 22 points, despite playing in just 17 of the team's 25 games. The Arizona native, a product of Quinnipiac University, is also tied for the team lead with 9 goals and tied for second on the team with a +7 rating. Langlois has quickly gained legitimate consideration as perhaps the most talented player to ever don an IceMen uniform.

• Rookie Peter Sakaris (SPR) has yet to find the same scoring touch that helped him produce 137 points in 159 career games in the QMJHL. Sakaris did score his first professional goal late in a 7-3 throttling of the Toledo Walleye in early December, but he has just 5 points (4 assists) in 20 games overall this season. Prior to the relatively recent depletion of the Evansville roster, Sakaris was a healthy scratch on 5 different occasions.

• Third-year pro Nathan Moon (EVN), who was under contract to Springfield last season, is tied for second on the IceMen with 21 points in 23 games. Moon has heated up in recent weeks, finding the scoresheet in 12 of his last 14 games. The gritty forward has also gained an "A" on his jersey, having been appointed an alternate captain after former "A" Jason Dale was released just before Thanksgiving.

• Sixth-year pro Matt Schepke (EVN) is tied with Moon for second on the team with 21 points. The Michigan native, who has had a few cups of coffee in the AHL during his career, is on pace for his best season as a pro.

• Second-year pro Matt Lowry (EVN) has been in the AHL on loan to Bridgeport since early December. When he departed Evansville, Lowry was tied for second on the team (with Schepke and behind Langlois) in scoring with 15 points in 19 games.

DEFENSEMEN:

• Rookie Thomas Larkin (CBJ) is now in Springfield after starting the season with the IceMen. While in Evansville, Larkin piled up 9 assists and a +6 rating in 19 games as half of Coach Jeff Pyle's top defense pairing. The big Italian also engaged in 4 fights and routinely punished opposing forwards in the corners. Larkin clearly has, at minimum, "AHL talent."

• Rookie Austin Madaisky (CBJ) is back with the Falcons after briefly getting some ice time with the IceMen earlier this month. Madaisky joined a short-handed Evansville team on the road for 3 games in 3 days, all losses. He was -5 and did not notch any points.

• Third-year pro Joe Lavin (SPR) is currently on the shelf after undergoing surgery to repair a sports hernia earlier this month. He has already missed 11 games and will likely sit out about a half-dozen more before returning sometime in the early-to-middle part of January. Prior to the injury, Lavin was Larkin's partner on the team's ultra-reliable top defense pairing. The Notre Dame product had 8 points and a +5 rating in 14 games.

• Fifth-year pro Matt Krug (EVN) is enjoying his most productive season since making his pro debut with the IHL's Muskegon Lumberjacks in 2009-10. Krug, whose younger brother Torey is making waves in the NHL with the Boston Bruins, is 4th on the IceMen with 17 points in 25 games this season. Among all ECHL defensemen, Krug is tied for 4th in scoring and tied for 2nd in goals with 7. He also has 79 penalty minutes (most on the team and among ECHL blueliners) and a team-leading 8 fighting majors. On December 20 at Wheeling, Krug notched his third career "Gordie Howe Hat Trick."

GOALTENDERS:

• Second-year pro Mike Clemente (SPR) is currently filling in for Mike McKenna in Springfield, thanks to Sergei Bobrovsky's injury in Columbus. In 13 appearances with the IceMen prior to his Falcons call-up, Clemente went 9-2-2 with a 2.59 Goals-Against Average and a .903 Save Percentage. Outside of a rough 5-game stretch in November, Clemente was downright superb for Evansville - logging a 7-1-0 record with a 1.51 GAA and a .942 SV%.

• Former Blue Jackets netminder Allen York (EVN) has only been in uniform for a handful of Evansville's games, having spent most of the season bouncing around the AHL on loans to various teams. York's tour of the AHL began with a weekend in Charlotte, continued with a month in Texas, and concluded (for now) with a couple weeks in Rockford. However, as soon as he was officially returned to the IceMen from Rockford on December 23, he was immediately loaned to Team Canada's squad that is pursuing the Spengler Cup in Switzerland. York will return to Evansville after the Spengler Cup tournament ends on New Year's Eve - unless, of course, his services are requested by yet another AHL team first.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

IceMen Maniac is Michael Shockley, a.k.a. "Shocker" to IceMen fans
Michael provides JacketsCannon.com with monthly IceMen updates
He is also the Webmaster and Senior Writer for IceMenManiacs.com

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