Know our foes: South Division (part 2 of 6)

As the Indy Fuel get ready for their second season, it’s time to reacquaint ourselves with our potential foes in the ECHL. While the Fuel will not play everyone in the league, we’ll meet each team in the circuit. Yesterday, we took a look at the East Division of the Eastern Conference. Today, we meet the five teams in the South Division – all teams with whom we’re very familiar.

Previous posts: East Division
Coming next: North Division

South Division
Atlanta Gladiators
ECHL member since: 
2003-04 in Gwinnett/Atlanta (1995-2002 as Mobile Mystics, 2003-15 as Gwinnett Gladiators)
Head coach: Andy Brandt (2nd season)
Last year: 20-45-7, 7th/7 East Division
NHL/AHL affiliate: 
Boston Bruins/Providence Bruins
Infinite Energy Arena, Duluth, Ga. (capacity 11,355)
Fuel vs. Gladiators 2014-15: Indy was 2-0-0 against Gwinnett
2015-16 vs. Fuel: 
no scheduled games
Of note: The team formerly known as the Gwinnett Gladiators went through a name change in the offseason – as they are now the lone hockey team in the Atlanta market after the departure of the NHL’s Thrashers a couple of years back. The Gladiators pick up a new NHL affiliate, the Boston Bruins. They have a few familiar faces – Thomas Frazee and Ian Barteaux, who started last season in Fort Wayne, and former Toledo player Joe Stejskal.

Florida Everblades
ECHL member since:
Head coach: Greg Poss (6th season)
Last year: 49-16-2, 1st/7 East Division, won Eastern Division Semifinal
NHL/AHL affiliate:
Carolina Hurricanes/Charlotte Checkers
Germain Arena, Estero, Fla. (capacity 7,186)
Fuel vs. Everblades 2014-15: Indy was 0-2-1 against Florida.
2015-16 vs. Fuel: 
no scheduled games
Of note: The Everblades were one of the ECHL’s elite teams last season, and won a playoff round before falling to eventual conference champ South Carolina in the East Division Final. They’ll have a lot of new faces this season, but top scorers Mike Aviani and Gabriel Desjardins are back.

Greenville Swamp Rabbits
ECHL member since: 
2010-11 in Greenville (2010-15 as Greenville Road Warriors, 1987-2010 as Johnstown Chiefs)
Head coach: Brian Gratz (1st season)
Last year: 39-29-4, 5th/7 East Division
NHL/AHL affiliate:
New York Rangers/Hartford Wolf Pack
Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greenville, SC (capacity 7,044)
Fuel vs. Road Warriors 2014-15: Indy was 2-0-1 against the team formerly known as the Greenville Road Warriors
2015-16 vs. Fuel: 
no scheduled games
Of note: The Swamp Rabbits underwent a name change this summer, but were a hard-luck entry last year, missing the playoffs despite having a better record than six teams that did make the postseason. Much is similar – including a strong affiliate in the Rangers – but the Rabbits will be playing under a first-year head coach in one of the league’s most loaded divisions.

Orlando Solar Bears
ECHL member since: 2012-13
Head coach: Anthony Noreen (1st season)
Last year: 37-25-10, 4th/7 East Division
NHL/AHL affiliate: Toronto Maple Leafs/Toronto Marlies
Arena: Amway Center, Orlando, Fla. (capacity 9,555 for hockey)
Fuel vs. Solar Bears 2014-15: Indy was 0-2-0 against the Solar Bears.
2015-16 vs. Fuel: 1 game in Indy (Jan. 16), 3 in Orlando (Feb. 17, 18, 20)
Of note: The Solar Bears inherit the market and name of the Indianapolis Ice’s old rivals from the IHL .They’ll have a new look, as former coach Vince Williams – a former Ice defenseman – has been replaced by Anthony Noreen, who most recently coached the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms. He was that league’s Coach of the Year last season. They’ll have a lot of new faces this year, as Eric Baier (20 points last season) is the top scorer from last year currently signed. Orlando is the only ECHL team to share an arena with an NBA team.

South Carolina Stingrays
ECHL member since: 1993-94
Head coach: Spencer Carbery (5th season)
Last year: 45-20-7, 2nd/7 East Division, Eastern Conference champion
NHL/AHL affiliate: Washington Capitals/Hershey Bears
Fuel vs. Stingrays 2014-15: Indy was 2-1-0 against South Carolina
2015-16 vs. Fuel: 1 game in Indy (Dec. 6)
Of note: The Stingrays came within one game of a Kelly Cup title. They are in the first year of sole Washington Capitals affiliation, as they shared the affiliation with the Caps and Bruins last year. The Stingrays have been a model franchise, winning titles in 1997, 2001 and 2009, and are the longest-running ECHL team playing in the same city. 21-goal scorer Derek DeBlois and 10-goal scorer Patrick Gaul are back to help anchor the team this season for veteran coach Spencer Carbery.

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