By: Collin Schuck – IceRays Staff
Jan. 3, 2017
A new year and new opportunities to either right the wrongs of the past or build off new experiences heading into the second half of the season. Though the eighth edition of the IceRays Alumni Report, Vol. III seems a little top heavy, there’s been some new faces now in new places among professional alums over the last few weeks, including the rise up of two players, the drop of one, and the consistent play of another two in separate leagues.
After his first win and shutout win in the National Hockey League (NHL), goaltender Anthony Stolarz (’11-’12) hasn’t seen a start nor a result with the Philadelphia Flyers but has put up two more appearances to close out a very successful 2016 calendar year. He was called into action on December 22 against his former favorite team, the New Jersey Devils, after the first period in a 4-0 loss as well as on December 30 in San Jose when starter Steve Mason went down due to an injury in the second period during their 2-0 loss. He’s combined 36 saves on 39 shots in that span and has kept the pads hot since making his NHL debut in late November. Stolarz owns a 2-0-0 record with a 1.79 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage in four career appearances so far. Couple those results with a career American Hockey League (AHL) season last year and an AHL All-Star Classic appearances, 2016 has been a strong year for the New Jersey native.
While it’s not an ideal situation, forward Ryan Garbutt (’09-’10) is looking to make the most of his circumstances after being sent to the San Diego Gulls a few weeks ago, and after eight games he finally sees some production on the scoresheet. The Winnipeg, Man., native scored his first AHL goal since 2012 on Boxing Day against the Tucson RoadRunners in the eventual 5-4 shootout loss at home. Garbutt played 115 career AHL games between the Chicago Wolves and Texas Stars from 2010-12 before making a four and a half year stay in the NHL, a place he looks to return in the near future.
Goaltender Pheonix Copley (’10-’11) has been quite busy since the last check-in with the Chicago Wolves, and his play continues to trend upward heading into the New Year. He won six of his eight starts through the month of December and owns an active three-game win streak beginning on December 22 in through the end of the calendar year. While he’s not shutting out teams, he’s conceded four goals or more just twice in nine games and has been nothing but consistent in his second full season with the Wolves. He’s playing like a potential all-star so far, putting together a 8-4-2 record with a 2.45 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage through 15 games, and he’s on pace for a solid rebound season in Chicago closer to numbers he had in Hershey during his rookie season.
Speaking of Hershey, the upward movement of another former junior player continues in just his first full season of professional hockey. Defenseman Colton Saucerman (’10-’11) signed a Professional Tryout Contract (PTO) with the Hershey Bears on Friday, making him just the third junior alum to breach the AHL. The 24-year-old has been with the team’s affiliate, the South Carolina Stingrays, since his departure from Northeastern University last April and through 15 games has five assists as well as 18 penalty minutes. He made his AHL debut on New Year’s Eve against the Providence Bruins and hopes to stick around beyond his initial PTO.
After the start that he’s had to this season, it’s no surprise that forward Chad Costello (’09-’10) was named a starter for the 2017 CCM ECHL All-Star Classic in Glens Falls, N.Y. this morning. On yet another breakneck 100-point pace, the Johnston, Iowa product leads the ECHL in points, boasting 18 goals and 38 assists for 56 points through just 35 games and holding an 11-point lead over the next two players in the entire league. He’s on pace to break 110 points this season, which would surpass last year’s mark and make him the favorite to become a three-time reigning scoring champion and MVP award winner.
Read the IceRays Alumni Report every Tuesday on www.goicerays.com, and hear the audio version on the IceRays Broadcast Network.
Collin Schuck is the Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations for the Corpus Christi IceRays. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @CollinDSchuck.