Greater Trail hockey products are leading the way in professional leagues despite the impact of COVID.
Trail natives Jake Lucchini, Craig Martin, Travis St. Denis and Kellen and Connor Jones are all at the top of their teams’ respective rosters in scoring, despite having to deal with rampant COVID spread in Canada and the U.S.
Numerous games in the American Hockey League (AHL) and ECHL have been postponed due to the recent surge of COVID Omicron cases, while the leagues continue to press on with teams playing shorthanded in many cases.
Former Trail Smoke Eaters captain, Jake Lucchini, was traded from the AHL Laval Rocket to the Belleville Senators earlier this year and has been nothing short of phenomenal since joining the Ottawa Senators’ AHL affiliate.
Lucchini currently leads the Senators in scoring with 10 goals and 19 points in just 22 games in 2021, after tallying six points in 28 games with Laval last season.
However, before Christmas as many as 18 Senators players and staff tested positive for COVID, following a nine-day road trip through the U.S.
So far, six games have been postponed, and, if made up, it will leave Belleville with more than 50 to play in the second half.
The Jones twins, Connor and Kellen, had a solid start to the season in Fort Wayne with the Komets of the ECHL, that is until Connor and several other players and staff had to sit out games due to COVID protocol.
The scratches either tested positive for COVID-19 or were in close contact with those who had, including Connor who was leading the Komets’ in scoring, all-star goalie Samuel Harvey, captain Matthew Barnaby, enforcer Chays Ruddy, assistant coach Olivier Legault and equipment manager Skylar Garver.
The Komets played with as few as seven forwards in some games, and yet maintained second place in their division with a 13-7-3-0 record.
Kellen is currently leading the Komets with four goals and 18 points in 25 games, while Connor is in third spot after missing eight games, with 12 points in 16 matches.
Smoke Eaters alumnus, St. Denis, currently leads the Straubing Tigers in goals with 14 and is fourth in points with 22 in the German Ice-hockey League. St. Denis played for the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers, alongside the Jones twins at times, for five seasons. He was traded to the Binghamton Devils in 2020-21, before heading overseas to play for the Tigers.
Former Smoke Eater and Beaver Valley Nitehawk forward Craig Martin leads the ECHL’s Jacksonville Icemen in scoring with 11 goals and 25 points in 27 games this season and is 12th overall in league scoring.
Martin reclaimed his scoring touch this year, after counting 10 points in 32 games with the Icemen in the COVID abbreviated 2020-21 season.
Jacksonville, the New York Rangers NHL affiliate, sits atop the ECHL at 17-8-1-1, following eight straight wins in which Martin counted points in every game, scoring four goals and 11 points during the streak.
But the team also has been affected by the recent Omicron surge. The ECHL announced on Monday that the Atlanta at Jacksonville game scheduled for Tuesday (Dec. 28) was also postponed due to league health and safety protocols.
Martin, the Jones twins, and St. Denis all played for the Quinnipiac University Bobcats, winning the conference title, before falling in the final of the Frozen Four in the 2016 NCAA championship.