Three Gwinnett Gladiators were named to the 2007 ECHL All-Star American Conference team on Thursday, two of them as starters.
Center Brad Schell and defenseman Jon Awe will be on the ice for the opening puck drop on Jan. 17 in Boise, Idaho. It is the first all-star selection for both.
Rookie winger Colton Fretter was also tabbed for the American Conference's roster. The National Conference team will be announced today.
Schell leads the league with 47 points (eight more than the next closest player) in 26 games. Awe leads all defensemen in goals with 11 and is second in total points with 27 in 23 games. Fretter leads all first-year players in goals with 16 and is second in total scoring with 29 points.
Their selections were a bit of a no-brainer, Gladiators head coach Jeff Pyle said.
"Scheller's leading the league and has done about as good as you could," said Pyle, who has been a coach in the ECHL All-Star Game the last three straight years. "He totally understands what I'm doing. I don't feel like I even have to coach him. He's just doing all the little things I nagged him about for years.
"It's just good to see him being successful and being rewarded for the things he's done."
Schell, who has been playing for Pyle and the Gladiators since he entered the professional ranks in 2003, has at least a point in each of Gwinnett's last 10 games and has really taken a leadership role this season in running the team's No. 1 power play unit.
Drafted by and under contract to the Atlanta Thrashers, the 22-year-old had a career best 56 assists in helping the Gladiators to the Kelly Cup finals last season. He also received his first American Hockey League call-up in 2005-06, playing in 10 games for Chicago.
Pyle said after the All-Star Game, he doesn't expect Schell, Awe and Fretter to be around very long.
"I told all three of them today, 'Try to prove something while you're there,'" Pyle said. "I'm glad for all three of them. Now someone's going to snag them."
Awe was named to last year's ECHL All-Rookie team and has continued to make big strides in his second pro season. The Memphis native was invited to Thrashers training camp and has already been called up to the AHL once this season.
The 6-foot-4 blueliner has played tremendously, especially on the power play, for Gwinnett. His 10 power-play goals are tops for all defensemen and rank second in the league.
"Jonny's been patient," Pyle said. "I told him last year, eventually you'll have (Troy Milam's) on the power play.
"He's learned so much and he's maturing as a defenseman."
Fretter, drafted by the Thrashers in 2002 and under contract to AHL Chicago, played four seasons at Michigan State University before arriving in Gwinnett. As a Spartan, Fretter had 112 points in 159 career games and has made an impressive transition to the pro game with the Gladiators.
"Fretts has been great all year," Pyle said. "He and (teammate Mike Vigilante) are the hardest working guys I've ever coached."
Backstopping the American Conference team will be former Gwinnett goalie Adam Berkhoel. who is now with Dayton and under contract to NHL Buffalo.
Also named to start are Columbia defenseman Mike Jarmuth and forwards Kevin Baker (Texas) and Sean Collins (Wheeling).
All five starters are first-time all-stars.
Rounding out the defensive corps is South Carolina's Jamie Fraser (the only blueliner with more points than Awe and the only rookie ahead of Fretter on the rookie scoring list), Paul Albers and Mike Madill - both of Texas - and Wheeling's Paul Bissonnette. The rest of the forwards are Maxime Boisclair (Johnstown), Greg Hogeboom (Reading), Shane Hynes (Augusta), John Laliberte (Trenton), Mark Lee (Charlotte), Andrew R. Martin (Toledo), Rob Rankin (Pensacola) and Jamie Tardif (Toledo).
Joining Berkhoel in goal are rookies Cedrick Desjardins (Cincinnati) and David Shantz (Florida).
The starting lineups are determined in voting by American Conference coaches, team captains, media directors, broadcasters and media members. Coaches also submitted the top prospects from within their conference to determine the final roster with each of the 15 teams having a representative.
Coaches, equipment managers and athletic trainers for the game will be announced in the new year.