KALAMAZOO, MI – The roster is set and the Kalamazoo Wings are hitting the road to begin their 44th season of professional hockey.
The K-Wings will travel to Cincinnati for a game against the Cyclones on Saturday before returning back to Wings Event Center to prepare for their home opener on Saturday, October 21st against the Brampton Beast.
Hoping to pick up where they left off last season, the K-Wings brought back several faces for this season. After a lackluster first half last year, the K-Wings turned it around with a big second half. Sneaking into the playoffs as the fourth seed in the Central Division the K-Wings (38-30-1-3) pushed the number one seeded Toledo Walleye (51-17-2-2) to a decisive Game 7, before bowing out of the postseason.
Among the returning players is goaltender Joel Martin, who is coming back for his ninth season as a K-Wing and 14th season overall.
Martin is the K-Wings franchise leader in wins (207) and shutouts (21). Martin ranks second in games played (373) and minutes (21,825). In the ECHL, Martin ranks in the top five in 15 different times in 12 categories.
Martin is grateful to continue playing in Kalamazoo.
“I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to play as long as I have,” Martin said. “I thank God for the opportunity.
And to play in Kalamazoo for so long, a place that I now call home is pretty special.”
As for his numerous records, Martin stays humble.
“You know I haven’t really spent anytime looking back at the numbers,” Martin said. “I’m just focused on what’s next. Any records I have are a credit to the hundreds of teammates I have had over the years. I’m just a small cog in a big wheel. Team success equals individual success for everyone involved.”
Joining Martin between the pipes is Michael Garteig who was assigned to the K-Wings by their AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets.
Returning defenseman include Ben Wilson, Eric Kattelus, Kyle Bushee and Charlie Vasaturo. New faces include Aaron Irving, Jon Jutzi and Mackenze Stewart, who is property of the Vancouver Canucks. Anton Cederholm, who played for the K-Wings during the 2015-16 season, was re-assigned to the K-Wings by the Canucks.
Returning forwards include Jimmy Mullin, Justin Taylor, Kyle Blaney, Scott Henegar, Tyler Biggs, Peter Schneider, Lane Scheidl and Joshua Pitt. Newcomers include Brendan Bradley, Tyler Heinonen and Eric Ylitalo.
Defenseman Sean O’Rourke and forward J.T. Stenglein are on reserve.
Biggs, last year’s “Most Popular Player” as voted by the fans, enjoyed the honor.
“Being voted fan favourite is definitely a great feeling,” Biggs said. “I try to play a hard game and it’s always nice to know the fans appreciate it the way they do. We all take pride in our own rolls so the end of the year was a bonus being voted and appreciated by the fans like that.”
Biggs hopes the good fortune the K-Wings had at the end of last season will carry over this season.
“The second half of last year as a group we found our identity,” Biggs said. “Having an identity, for me, is crucial for any team. Chances are you’ll never have the most skilled team on the ice every night, but you can have the hardest working (team). With a big number of guys returning (this season) it’s exciting to think about going into this season.”
By: Mark C. McGlothlen