Blue HQ Media at the ECHL All-Star Classic

Michael Neal leaves the ice after the first half of the 2018 ECHL All-Star game. (Dalton Tinklenberg/Blue HQ Media)

Indianapolis hosted the 2018 ECHL All-Star Classic, which for the first time adopted the popular 3-on-3 format with four teams– one for each ECHL division. Aside from the game, the weekend also featured a fan fest and autograph sessions with the All-Stars. Special guests included Wayne Gretzky, who made his return to Indianapolis after starting his professional career as a 17-year old, playing a short stint for the Indianapolis Racers in the WHA’s 1978-1979 season. Gretzky stated he had fond memories of his time in Indy, including attending night classes at Broad Ripple High School– a stipulation of his father’s upon co-signing his 17-year old son’s professional contract.

Game one featured fast gameplay and a 3-1 victory for the South Division, led by the South Carolina Stingray’s Taylor Cammarata and his two goals. A late rally by the North Division was stymied by the South’s goaltender, Martin Oullette of the Florida Everblades, who made three quick athletic saves on rebound opportunities to seal the victory. The Indy Fuel’s All-Star goaltender, Etienne Marcoux, took the tough loss but would make an appearance later during the shootout contest part of the skills competition. Marcoux faced 16 shots and gave up two goals in the 14 minute game. Marcoux has become an incredible story in Indy this season, as he turned a camp tryout invitation into an All-Star invitation.

Game two, between the Mountain and Central divisions, featured the Indy Fuel’s team captain Michael Neal for the Central team. The Mountain All-Stars jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead during the seven-minute first half, but Neal sent the home crowd into a frenzy two minutes into the second half when he buried the Central’s first goal. The Mountain team then scored two unanswered goals to put the game out of reach, despite a late goal from the Central team– one in which Neal picked up an assist. Shane Starrett, goaltender of the Wichita Thunder, continued his stellar rookie season and backstopped the Mountain win behind a 16 save performance.

After the second game, a skills competition was held. The competition featured a fastest skater race in which each competitor took one lap around the rink, a shootout competition and a hardest shot contest.

Fastest skater- Forward Justin Danforth, Cincinnati Cyclones, 12.75 seconds.

Shootout- Goaltender Shane Starrett, Wichita Thunder, one goal allowed. The Fuel’s Marcoux finished second with only two goals allowed.

Hardest shot- Defenseman Nolan Valleau, Orlando Solar Bears, 97 MPH. Former Fuel player and USHL Indiana Ice captain Woody Hudson finished third with a 93 MPH shot.

After the skills competition, the winners of the first two games played for the All-Star Challenge Championship. The Mountain and South teams traded play early, until the Allen American’s defenseman David Makowski snuck one past the South’s goaltender, Oullette. Rapid City’s Dante Salituro added a second goal for the Mountain team, but Cammarata answered right back with his third and fourth goals of the day to tie the final game 2-2 after the first seven minute half. The second half started with more of the same, as Cammarata scored on a breakaway, his fifth goal of the game. Makowski added some more offense from his defensive position, and notched another goal for the Mountain team to pull even at three. Moments later, Tulsa’s Conner Bleackley added another goal to give the Mountain team a 4-3 lead halfway through the second half. Salituro added his third goal of the day for the Mountain team, but that was quickly equaled by the South’s Christopher Dienes from Jacksonville to pull within one. With 30 seconds remaining, Grant Besse of the Norfolk Admirals tied the game at five off a nifty flip to the left of the crease.

With the final game tied after 14 minutes of 3-on-3 play, the game moved directly to a sudden death shootout. Utah’s Cliff Watson scored on the first attempt for the Mountain Team, and on the other end Starrett stood tall to seal the Mountain team victory.

MVP- South Division Taylor Cammarata, South Carolina Stingrays, five goals and two assists.

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About Tom Ratliff 83 Articles
My name is Tom, and I have been an avid hockey and Colts fan for most of my life. The lack of an NHL team here means I try to watch hockey any way I can, including a lot of nights as a youngster inside old Market Square Arena watching the Indianapolis Ice. I am excited to bring you my perspective on a multitude of hockey teams. Additionally I enjoy shooting sports, and rooting for America in the Summer and Winter Olympics.