They took very different roads to get from their native Sweden to Augusta, but Lynx forward Jonas Soling and defenseman Likit Andersson will share the road to Little Rock, Ark., next month.
Soling and Andersson were named to the Southern Conference All-Star team Wednesday and will represent the Lynx in the East Coast Hockey League All-Star Game at Alltel Arena in Little Rock on Feb. 13.
This is Soling's second All-Star trip in three seasons with the Lynx, while Andersson will make his first All-Star game appearance at any level.
"It's good for them and good for our team to have two nominations," said Lynx coach Jim Burton, who took over the team Jan. 8. "I think they're both deserving, and I think there probably are some other guys on our team who deserve to go, too."
Soling leads the Lynx in scoring with 22 goals and 16 assists for 38 points, and possesses one of the best shots in the league.
As a rookie in 1998-99, Soling was named an ECHL All-Star along with defenseman Jaroslav Obsut during the Lynx's inaugural season. He scored a goal in the game and was hailed as a rising star by former Los Angeles Kings coach Barry Melrose on the ESPN2 broadcast of the game.
Getting the All-Star nod could be a huge boost for Soling's career. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound winger is in the final year of a three-year contract with the NHL's Vancouver Canucks, and the Canucks have given him no indication that he fits into the organization's plans.
"It's a great honor because there are a lot of players on this team that could have gone," the 22-year-old Soling said. "Hopefully, the recognition will be good. There will be a lot of scouts at the game, I'm sure."
Andersson is in the midst of a breakout offensive year in his first full season in Augusta. He is tied for the league lead in assists among defensemen with 25 and is tied for sixth in overall defense scoring with 30 points.
"I was a little bit surprised," said Andersson, who was an ECHL rookie last season after playing several years in Europe. "But I am very happy to be going. I've never been to an All-Star game before. It's going to be a lot of fun, I think."
The 27-year-old Andersson, who was born in Thailand but raised in Sweden, was acquired last season by former Lynx coach Dan Wiebe on Feb. 27 from the Trenton Titans for center Stu Bodtker. He helped the club in a limited role as the team's fifth or sixth defenseman but has blossomed in 2000-01, emerging as one of the top offensive defensemen in the league.
"I'm real happy for Likit," Soling said. "He's having a great year."
The Southern Conference squad is headlined by Louisiana IceGators defenseman Chris Valicevic, who makes his record seventh trip to the All-Star game, and Pee Dee Pride center Dany Bousquet, who will make his third All-Star trip.
Valicevic, who is a four-time ECHL defenseman of the year and was the league's MVP in 1998-99, is tied with Andersson for the league lead in assists among defensemen and is the league's career assist leader, with 401.
Bousquet leads the ECHL with 29 goals and is tied for second with 57 points in 36 games.
Joining Valicevic and Bousquet as starters are goalie Kirk Daubenspeck (South Carolina), defenseman Trevor Demmans (Pee Dee), and forwards Brent Cullaton (Tallahassee) and Matt Demarski (Florida).
South Carolina coach Rick Adduono and Arkansas RiverBlades coach Chris Cichocki were named Tuesday as Southern Conference co-coaches, while Trenton's Troy Ward and Peoria's Jason Christie will coach the Northern Conference.
The Northern Conference All-Stars will be announced today. Players were chosen in a vote among coaches and general managers from their respective conferences.
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425 or email@example.com.
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