Three Stars of the ECHL: Jacksonville Icemen

While the Jacksonville Icemen’s existence in the ECHL has only been three seasons (well two and some change, thanks coronavirus), they’ve produced some high-end talent within the ECHL, including some that have moved their way through the ranks to the both the AHL and the NHL. Today, we will highlight three stars with different stories of success, leadership and growth.

Kunlun Red Star/KHL

Garet Hunt

The player that every Icemen fan thinks of when mentioning the team is without a doubt Garet Hunt. This 32-year-old ECHL veteran spent two full seasons with the Icemen and served as the first team captain in Jacksonville. This was before playing last season in China for the Kunlun Red Star of the KHL. Hunt played 11 seasons in the ECHL and is best known for being the all-time league leader in penalty minutes compiled with 2,666. That is a lot of time in the sin bin.

Hunt, a Maple Ridge, British Columbia native, began his professional career with the Stockton Thunder in 2008-09 before heading north to Alaska. There, he played with the Aces from 2015 to 2017. When Jacksonville needed a leader on and off the ice, Jason Christie, head coach of the Icemen, would call on Hunt to step up and lead the new team. His energy on the ice inspired teammates and got the fans excited about hockey being back in Jax.

In 702 ECHL games, Hunt recorded 102 goals and 142 assists for 244 points. His playoff totals through 70 games include 11 goals and 14 assists, equaling 25 points along with 124 penalty minutes.

James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

Mikhail Berdin

Russian goaltender, Mikhail Berdin, has his sights set on the NHL and is not looking back. The 22-year-old Winnipeg Jets sixth-rounder moved to the U.S. after being drafted in 2016 and played two seasons in the USHL. He did so for the Sioux Falls Stampede where he recorded a save percentage of .923. He also added a goals against average of 2.69 through 76 games.

Berdin was the Icemen’s hot goalie during the 2018-2019 season. He played 28 games for the Icemen and had several call-ups to the Manitoba Moose during that span. His .912 save percentage and 2.66 goals against average earned the 6’2 backstop a record of 16-8-2 while in Jacksonville.

His AHL numbers are even better. Some credit that to his ability to register, read and track faster and harder shots. That is a quality of goaltenders that have a high ceiling and hockey IQ, traits that elite level NHL goalies possess. Through 65 AHL games from 2018-2020, Berdin has a goals against average of 2.61 and a .919 save percentage.

Look for the six-foot two-inch, 185-pound goalie to see time in the NHL soon. He was selected to join the Jets in the bubble during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Halifax Mooseheads/QMJHL

Cameron Critchlow

Another Icemen legend rounds out the top three. Cam Critchlow played 139 games for the Icemen through two seasons before also leaving, like Garet Hunt did, for opportunities abroad. The 28-year-old, Summerside, PEI native won fans over with his genuine personality off the ice along with his stereotypical hockey smile. He collected 59 points while in Jacksonville before playing last season for the Manchester Storm. That was in the EIHL, the United Kingdom’s elite ice hockey league.

Critch, as his teammates call him, began his junior hockey career in the QMJHL where he played six seasons, three with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. He also played two with the Lewiston MAINEiacs and wrapped up his junior days with the Halifax Mooseheads. He finished his career in the Q with 54 goals along with 85 assists for 139 points and 331 penalty minutes. He achieved this in 313 games.

The 5-foot 10-inch, 190-pound left winger then went on to play five seasons at the University of New Brunswick in the AUS. There, he collected 29 goals along with 43 assists for 72 points. In 133 games played, Critchlow also recorded 167 penalty minutes.

Halifax Mooseheads/QMJHL

After completing his tenure in U SPORTS, Critchlow’s pro career got started in Jacksonville. He is second all-time in games played for the Icemen, only behind three-year defensemen Dajon Mingo. Cam took on a leadership role when called upon, and thrived at it, becoming the go-to player during Jacksonville’s first playoff run in 2018-19.

Honorable Mention: Jansen Harkins and John Albert

The Icemen have a few alumni with NHL experience and goals to prove it. Canadian forward Jansen Harkins most recently scored a breakaway goal top shelf on Flames backstop Cam Talbot in the second game of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

A few years earlier, fan favourite centreman John Albert got called up from the St. John’s IceCaps to the Winnipeg Jets. Doing so in 2013-14 at Madison Square Garden, he scored on his first shot in his first NHL game in front of his parents. This just so happens to have been a breakaway goal on then Rangers goaltender, Cam Talbot. Guess you can say the Icemen have Talbot’s number one-on-one.

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