|Randy Rowe is having another solid ECHL season, with eight goals and 15 assists in his past 23 games.
The Burford, Ontario native is enjoying another solid season at the ECHL level, averaging a point per game (8 goals and 15 assists in 23 contests) in the arena where the classic film Slap Shot was filmed.
While Rowe knows the chances of him making the NHL are slim, his passion for the sport is what keeps the drive alive. He took a major step towards achieving that goal last season when he appeared in 17 games for Springfield of the American Hockey League. It was the most AHL appearances for Rowe since he went 3-4-7 in 17 games for the St. John’s Maple Leafs in 2003-04.
“You hope that someday you can make it to the NHL, but I love the game,” Rowe said. “If I didn’t love it, I don’t think I’d be playing. Every year, you get a little older and you get more injuries. Last year, I fractured my back and the year before I had a herniated disk in my neck. The years that I have had the opportunity to get called-up, it seems like I get injured. You hope to catch your break, but you never know what’s going to happen.”
The Chiefs haven’t had many breaks this season, as they enter tonight’s game at Wheeling seven games under .500 (11-18-1). They’ve also dropped nine of their last 10 contests.
“We’re making the little mistakes, and they’re costing us,” Rowe said. “We’ve been on a slide the last 15 games. It’s just mental errors that happen to us, and they don’t really need to happen. It seems like there’s at least one a game.”
First-year coach Ian Herbers remains upbeat, and with good reason. Despite their recent struggles, Johnstown is only five points behind the Trenton Devils for the fifth and final playoff spot in the North Division.
“Obviously, we didn’t want to put ourselves in this situation,” said Herbers, who played in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders and the Tampa Bay Lightning. “We made it a lot tougher than it needed to be for us at this point in the year. At the same time, it’s also a good learning experience and growing experience. Hopefully, we become a better team from it down the stretch.”
Much of that responsibility could land on Rowe’s shoulders. The veteran forward, who is one of only three players on the roster born before 1981 (Jean Desrochers and Kris Kasper are the others), admitted there is added pressure to score on such an inexperienced club.
“I feel a little pressure, but we’ve got such a good bunch of young guys,” Rowe said. “Everyone tries to help out and pat each other on the back when things are going good or bad. I feel a little more pressure on the ice than I do off the ice. I feel like I have to be 110 percent every night and never take a night off.”
On a positive note, such a scenario could lead to another trip to the AHL for Rowe, who spent four seasons with the Peoria Rivermen before arriving in Johnstown for the 2005-06 campaign. Obviously, the more he produces, the better shot he has of moving up the ladder.
“It’s always in the back of your head,” Rowe said of a possible promotion. “You hope something goes your way and you get to have another opportunity at the next level. But you can never let that bother your teammates or yourself, or else you may never get the call-up. You’ve just got to go out there every game and just work as hard as you can.”
Herbers has been thrilled with the way Rowe has carried himself both on and off the ice. While he’d certainly hate to lose him, the Chiefs’ coach was positive when asked if Rowe will get another shot in the AHL.
“He’s been the leader of this team on and off the ice,” Rowe said. “If he keeps playing well and the team does well, then I can see an opportunity for him.”
Nailers Make Coaching Change -- Mired in last place in the North Division, the Wheeling Nailers (9-20-3) relieved Glenn Patrick of his coaching duties on Wednesday.
Patrick was replaced by Greg Puhalski, who guided the Toledo Storm to a record of 162-85-31 from 1994-98. Patrick will remain with the Nailers’ organization as a scout.
Puhalski, who turned 43 on New Year’s Day, last coached with the Chicago Hounds of the United Hockey League in 2006-07. He was named the league’s Coach of the Year after guiding the young squad to the Colonial Cup Playoffs.
“We are very excited to announce Greg as our new head coach today,” said Nailers President Jim Brooks. “We have done a considerable amount of due diligence on this very important decision, and feel that Greg's experience, history of winning and leadership will get our team back to where it needs to be.
“Obviously we were faced with a tough decision in relieving Glenn of his coaching duties,” Brooks added. “He has played a vital role with our organization for three years, and we are glad to still have him as part of the organization.”
All-Star Coaches Announced -- Congratulations to Glen Gulutzan (Las Vegas), Mark Morrison (Victoria), Chuck Weber (Cincinnati) and Malcolm Cameron (Texas), who were selected to coach at the 2008 ECHL All-Star Game.
For the second year in a row, Gulutzan and Cameron have been selected as a result of having the best winning percentage in their respective conferences, while Morrison and Weber were chosen using a combination of winning percentage and votes from coaches within their own conference.
Gulutzan’s three selections tie him for the most All-Star appearances with Chris Cichocki of Stockton, Davis Payne, who is now an assistant coach for AHL Peoria, and Gwinnett’s Jeff Pyle.
The ECHL All-Star Game will be played on Jan. 23 in Stockton, Calif.
Brian Compton can be e-mailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org.