By cornering the Classen market, the Augusta Lynx haven't landed a 50-goal scorer to compliment a future National Hockey League goaltender.
But if rookie forward Bryce Classen is anything like his cousin Cris, the Lynx will have added another heart and soul player to a club that has needed to check its collective pulse throughout an up-and-down 2001-02 season.
"He'll be the first to tell you he's a role player, not a 50-goal man," said Cris Classen, who is 13-8-4 for the Lynx in 26 starts in net. "But he is one of those guys that can help out this club in a lot of ways. He plays hard every shift and he thinks the game so well. He's the kind of guy you love to have on your team."
The Lynx acquired Bryce from Columbia for cash on Jan. 30, with the hopes that the gritty 5-foot-9, 185-pound winger would help kill penalties and add depth up front for a club that has played with a short bench all season.
He came highly recommended by Columbia coach Scott White, who tried but couldn't fit Classen into the mix with the Inferno.
"It was a situation where (NHL Vancouver) was sending guys down from (AHL) Manitoba all the time, and someone had to be bumped out, and it happened to be me," said Bryce Classen, whose brother Greg is in his second NHL season with the Nashville Predators.
"I also had a bad (rib) injury at a bad time, and I never got back in lineup when the team started to win. The bottom line is I'm just happy to be here. It gives me an opportunity to play and try and get the job done."
IMMOBILIZED: ECHL sources told The Augusta Chronicle last month that the Mobile Mysticks would not be back next season, and it became official on Friday.
Team owners announced the franchise will suspend operations in 2002-03. The ECHL's Board of Governors approved the decision in a conference call held on Friday.
"By asking to suspend operations next year, it will allow us to refocus and reorganize our efforts and allow our ownership group to consider all options with our ECHL membership," owner Toby Jeffreys said.
The Mysticks still owe the Lynx two players as the "future considerations" in the December trade that sent Jessie Rezansoff to Mobile.
MACON UPDATE: Citing the uncertain future of the Macon Whoopee after this season, general manager Lee Higgins and assistant GM Dave Lallo resigned their posts on Wednesday.
The Chronicle could not reach Higgins for comment, but he told The Macon Telegraph: "There's not a lot to say. I had to look out for what's best for my family. I was very unsure over whether there was going to be a team here next year."
With lagging attendance and a lack of corporate sponsorships, the Macon franchise is in danger of folding or relocating after this season.
The Whoopee left the lower-level Central Hockey League to join the ECHL this season, entering into an agreement to lease the former Tallahassee Tiger Sharks franchise and relocate it to Macon. Sources last month told The Chronicle that the Macon Sports Group and Elmore-Tuttle Sports Group, which owns the franchise the Whoopee leases, will end their relationship at the end of the season.
A representative from Elmore-Tuttle visited Macon last week to assess the situation and told The Macon Telegraph the group may take a more active role in trying to keep the team in Macon.
But Elmore-Tuttle is reportedly exploring several options, including relocating the franchise again.
ALLAN UPDATE: Doctors are encouraged by the progress made by Pee Dee Pride goalie Sandy Allan, who is recovering from severe head injuries sustained last Sunday in a fall from a hotel balcony in Fort Myers, Fla.
Allan was moved out of the surgical intensive care unit at Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers to the neuroscience unit on Thursday, and was upgraded from critical to serious condition.
Allan was taken off a ventilator on Wednesday and has been alert and able to get out of bed briefly for light physical therapy. He could be ready to be moved to a hospital either in Florence, S.C., or in his hometown of Toronto, Canada in the next 7-10 days.
The 28-year-old goalie, fifth in the ECHL with a 2.38 goals-against average, flipped over a balcony on the second floor of his hotel on Feb. 3. According to police reports, he had been drinking at the hotel bar while watching the Super Bowl, and was returning to his room after the bartender stopped serving him.
"There's a lot of speculation right now; I've heard 10 different stories," Pride senior vice president Jack Capuano said. "I won't really know what happened until I meet with (coach Davis Payne) and some of the players when they return (from the team's road trip). Obviously, our biggest concern is Sandy, and the good news is the doctors are optimistic."
SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE ROCK: Former Lynx winger Dean Tiltgen was unknowingly at the center of controversy last week in Little Rock, Ark. - home of the Arkansas RiverBlades.
Arkansas coach Chris Cichocki took issue with a feature story on Tiltgen that appeared in Tuesday's edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Tiltgen - who leads the ECHL with 30 goals and previously played with Arkansas of the Western Pro League under coach Jim Burton - was in town with the visiting Pensacola Ice Pilots for a game against the RiverBlades.
Tiltgen lit up the RiverBlades for four goals in a 6-2 win in Pensacola last Sunday. In Tuesday's rematch in Little Rock, the Riverblades turned the tables, winning 7-2.
After the game, Cichocki told Democrat-Gazette beat writer Jeffery Slatton to "get the (expletive) out of my office." He then crumpled a copy of the article and threw it in the trash before adding: "Dean Tiltgen? Give it a rest. The GlacierCats have been gone for two years. ... We worked hard, we deserved to win, now get out."
Slatton filed a complaint with the ECHL. Cichocki faces a possible fine.
CUTE AS A BUTTON: Kudos to Trenton Titans beat writer Mark Simon of the Trenton (N.J.) Times for coming up with two great names for the ECHL franchise expected to begin play in Gwinnett County, Ga., in 2003 - "Gwinnett Paltrows" after actress Gwyneth Paltrow and Gwinnett Buttons after the man for whom the suburban Atlanta county was named, Button Gwinnett, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
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