" think there's pressure on me. To repeat is something that is a goal of ours. I'm the benefactor of some great things that have happened in our organization. I want to continue that."
-- Cail MacLean
Imagine how much he'll be able to do for the team now that he can turn his attention that way full-time.
MacLean, the new head coach of South Carolina, was an assistant with the team last season. Some of the time.
Because he was finishing off his degree in business administration from The Citadel, he stood behind the Stingrays' bench only for home games during the regular season. He worked all the playoff games.
"It was important to me to finish my education," MacLean said. "I knew it was going to be tough. It was challenging at times. It worked out very well."
When head coach Jared Bednar got an assistant's job with Abbotsford of the AHL, MacLean slid over into the top spot. He does so with an overflow stash of energy and the discipline to finish what he started. While MacLean attended night classes at The Citadel and therefore didn't mix with the cadets, he got a whiff of the military structure of the school.
"I just think (it) is a proud institution. They push their students to excel," he said. "I think it helped me develop habits that are becoming crucial now, the ability to manage my time. It was important to develop the administrative skills. In business administration, I learned a lot about communication and leadership. Professionalism comes into play."
MacLean, 33, realizes that the graduate work he's now about to start is graded on a very harsh pass-fail curve. Keep the Stingrays near the top of the standings and he's maintaining the established course. Come up shy of another title run and it's because the new boss dropped the ball.
"I think there's pressure on me," he said. "To repeat is something that is a goal of ours. I'm the benefactor of some great things that have happened in our organization. I want to continue that."
Jack of all trades -- Johnstown forward Mike Bartlett can be excused for having some identity issues on the ice.
Last season, Bartlett played center, both wing spots and even defense for the Chiefs. He had never skated as a middleman before, and only took to the blue-line switch so well because he puts a lot into his work as a defensive forward.
"I pride myself on taking care of my own end of the ice," he said. "Center was a little adjustment, playing both ends of the ice. I was worried about not getting scored on, the offensive side of my game went down a little. It took a lot of the transition game away from me. I thought I did a pretty good job."
Bartlett will likely return to his familiar spot at wing this season, but is ready should he be asked to expand his game even more.
"I've actually tried to play goalie before, just messing around with friends," he said. "It's not a pretty picture. It's way harder than it looks."
Happy to hang 'em up -- There's a heap of leaves piling up in the yard of Sean Collins' home near Boston.
He's just the man to clean them up. He's not too excited about that prospect, but he only has himself to blame.
"I think I'd rather be practicing than raking leaves," he said. "It's a rude awakening."
Actually, the way Collins sees things, it’s the start of a new day.
Collins, just 26, announced his retirement from Wheeling earlier this week. The popular forward skated for the Nailers from 2005-2008, piling up 208 points on 69 goals and 139 assists. That ranks fourth on the team's all-time scoring list.
Collins recently became engaged and the couple bought a house in his hometown of Reading, Mass. He said he started thinking about retiring last summer, but wanted to come back for the start of this season just to make sure he wasn't acting impulsively. One training camp and two preseason games later, Collins knew it was time to move on.
"People say you are young, 26, 27," he said. "But when you are in minor-league hockey, it's different. When you are taking the 12-hour bus trips, playing Saturday and Sunday, it gets old really quick. Right now, there are a lot more important things than hockey. Rather than miss out on the birthdays and the holidays and the Christmases, I decided to hang them up."
Collins said he plans to work at a local hockey gear shop and help as an assistant hockey coach at his former high school. More immediately, though, he unwound from his decision by returning to his apartment in Wheeling and melting down in a hot tub.
"I lit a candle and decided to fade away for a couple of hours," he said. "I felt 22 again. It's just getting the old bones warmed up."
Got a map? -- Having never played hockey west of Minnesota, Idaho forward Mark McCutcheon is still nailing down the geography of his new home.
McCutcheon, who skated for Lake Erie of the AHL the past two seasons, originally spoke of his move "down here." He quickly amended that to "over here."
No matter. He'll be happy if the Steelheads are the team that helps put his career back on the map.
There's a precedent for that optimism. McCutcheon didn't score any goals in his first two seasons at Cornell, then produced 9 and 10, respectively, as a junior and senior. He was slotted back into third-line minutes with the Monsters, and scored just 8 goals in 128 games there.
The third-year pro went to camp in Buffalo this season before signing with Idaho as a free agent.
"I see some parallels (to Cornell). Hopefully, this is a year I break out offensively," said McCutcheon, 25. "It definitely took me awhile to adapt at Cornell. I was hoping pro hockey would be different. Playing in this league, I'll have bigger responsibilities and gain some confidence I lost in the past couple years."