Right winger Tyler Donati led the ECHL in scoring last season with 114P (38G, 76A) in 67GP. He's the all-time leading scorer for the Elmira Jackals since they joined the ECHL. (Photo copyright LiB Images.)
The conclusion of our two-part series of the Ottawa Senators' minor-league affiliates continues in northern New York, with the Elmira Jackals.
City: Elmira, New York
League: East Coast Hockey League, American Conference, East Division
Arena: First Arena
General Manager: Robbie S. Nichols
Head Coach: Malcolm Cameron
Championships: Two Divisional (2001-02, 2009-10)
Begins in the United Hockey League
The Jackals were created to be the minor league affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets during thier first season. But after some time the two teams spilt, and the Jackals became independent until joining the ECHL. In their first season Elmira would go on to place second with 73 points, but end up losing, 0-1 to the Knoxville Speed in the first round (only one game). Wanting to build off the success of their first season, Elmira signed key players during the off-season, and went on to win the Eastern Conference, in just their second year. In the first round, Elmira swept the New Haven Knights in three games, and beat the B.C. Icemen in five games. But Elmira was then defeated by the Muskegon Fury in the Colonial Cup finals in six games, losing the last two games in overtime. They made the playoffs again in 2003, but ended up losing in the second round to the Fort Wayne Komets in a four-game sweep. In 2004, the Jackals would made one last push for the Colonial Cup: After placing fourth with 75 points, the Jackals made it to the Finals by defeating the Richmond Riverdogs in four, and the Port Huron Beacons in six. But just like 2002, the Jackals didn't take home the Colonial Cup, and lost four straight to the Muskegon Fury. The Jackals would never again make the UHL playoffs, as they would finish fourth two years in a row, and last during their final season the UHL. Dispite the lack of success, home games were packed; the Jackals averaged 3,308 people per game, and had 31 sellouts. The largest being 4,126 on October 13, 2006.
The Jackals joined the ECHL in 2007, as a member of the North Divsion and again the minor league affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets. On November 29, 2007, after a coming home from a loss to the Cincinnati Cyclones, the team bus crashed on Interstate 90 in Pennsylvania. No players were killed, but some did sustain minor injuries. The Jackals would place second in the North with 89 points, but lost round two of the playoffs to the Reading Royals (Awesome name!). In 2008, the Jackals became the Ottawa Senators ECHL affiliate, and finished in second in the East once again, with 85 points. But they'd go on to lose in the second round again, this time to the Cincinnati Cyclones in four games. This past season, 2010 the Jackals finished first in the East with 83 points, but lost to the Florida Everblades in 5 games. The joke would be on Florida though, as their coach, Malcolm Cameron, signed with Elmira at the end of the season.
Heading into the 2010-11 season, fans of the Jackals have got to be pretty optimistic. Cameron's winning resume has got to be something exciting to look at (you know what they say; if you can't beat him, hire him as your coach). And 2009-10 leading scorer Tyler Donati and his twin brother Justin Donati (just call them the Sedin brothers of the ECHL) are both protected (basically a technicality to retain the player's rights), along with Olivier Proulx, Thomas Beauregard, Yannick Tifu, Wes Cunningham, R. J. Anderson, and quite a few other parts of the team's core from this past season, all most certainly looking to end next season on a higher note than the last. And as the Senators continue to invest resources in their prospect development system, you can be sure the Jackals will gain some dividends from it.