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Caudron turns risk into reward for Stockton

Thursday, 12.10.2009 / 11:14 AM / ECHL Report

By Lindsay Kramer - NHL.com Correspondent

Stockton Thunder coach Matt Thomas had every reason to take a chance on the signing of right wing J.F Caudron on Nov. 23. But he wanted Caudron to assume some of that risk as well. So after Thomas sold Thunder management that Caudron would be a good investment, he told his new player that he needed him to come in and come up big.

"It was the only way I could bring him," Thomas said of convincing his bosses. "If I make the wrong move, I might have the people I work for question my decision-making."

There's no second-guessing now. After going without a goal in his first three games, Caudron scored three total against Bakersfield on Dec. 4 and 5, including the winner in overtime both nights. Now that's what you call instant impact.

"It was a relief to score. The first impression is always very important," said Caudron, 31. "That's why they got me here."

Thomas didn't need a sales pitch. He was an assistant coach on the Atlantic City team that won the Kelly Cup in 2002-03; Caudron paced that squad with 85 points (39-46).

"The one thing you knew was that he loves to score goals. He's a little obsessive about scoring goals," Thomas said. "The one thing that always made me like J.F. was that he was so competitive to be the go-to guy. He hasn't lost a step. He is creating opportunities because of that speed."

Thomas' frame of reference might be a little fuzzy because Caudron hasn't been around these parts much. He's never played on the West Coast, and for the past six years he skated in Germany.

But he suffered a bad knee injury last season and wasn't fully ready again until September. By then, whatever overseas offers left out there weren't what Caudron had in mind. Thomas got in touch with him and convinced him to head out to the new frontier.

"I wasn't in a rush. I was taking my time with my knee," he said. "I knew I was going to get something. To be honest, I didn't think I'd come back in the (ECHL). I wanted to make sure I was going to the right place. I wasn't looking to start bouncing around. I didn't find it a big adjustment (coming back). I thought I fit in pretty good."

Maybe a little too good. Yes, Caudron has validated Thomas' belief in him. Now all he has to do is hit the repeat button again and again.

"He's off the schneid. The pressure is off," Thomas said. "The expectations are high."

Good times for Sawyer -- Toledo defenseman J.C. Sawyer has the golden touch of a finisher.

Before the season started, he wanted to propose to his girlfriend, Jessica. He could have just asked and gotten a positive reply. But instead he wrote a couple of verses, pulled out his guitar and sang the marriage proposal.

"I don't have the greatest voice," he said. "But I sing to her because she likes it and it makes her feel good. It makes her feel special."

And what's that old expression about how when the wife/girlfriend is happy, everyone is happy? It takes on added meaning in Sawyer's case. The engaged couple is expecting a baby in May, putting an extra shine on Sawyer's season. He's responded with one of the most dominant seasons in the ECHL so far, pacing league defenseman points (24), goals (9) and game-winning goals (4) and tying for first in assists (15).

"I've had a lot of good things happen in my life this year. It's easy to stay happy and focused on hockey," said Sawyer, 23. "I know when the game's on the line the guys are hungry to get two points. I'm trying to get two points. I'll do whatever I can to get the (big) goal. My dad keeps telling me I'm playing for three now. It gives me extra motivation to go out and play."
 
Four named to ECHL Hall -- The ECHL has tabbed the four 2010 league Hall of Fame inductees it will honor at its all-star game Jan. 20 in Ontario, Calif. They are:

* Cam Brown, the ECHL's all-time leader with 789 regular-season games and 2,425 penalty minutes. He played 13 seasons in the ECHL, beginning in 1991-92, and ranks 22nd with 206 goals, 23rd with 499 points and 25th with 293 assists.

* E.A. "Bud" Gingher, who passed away in 2002, co-founded the Dayton Bombers in 1991 and served as President and Governor until he sold the team in 1998. He was chairman of the ECHL Board of Governors from 1992-95 and is a member of both the Dayton Hockey Hall of Fame and the Peoria Rivermen Hockey Hall of Fame. The club that advances to the Kelly Cup Finals as the winner of the American Conference is presented with the E.A. "Bud" Gingher Memorial Trophy.

* Olaf Kolzig, who is the first inductee in the Developmental Player category. He was 11-9-1 and ranked third in the ECHL with a 3.41 goals-against average in 21 regular season games and 1-2-0 with a 4.66 goals against average in three postseason games with Hampton Roads in 1990-91. He was selected as an NHL All-Star in 1998 and 2000 and became the first former ECHL player to win the Vezina Trophy, in 1999-2000. Kolzig appeared in 719 NHL games and ranks 21st all-time with 303 wins.

* Darryl Noren, who began playing in the ECHL as a rookie in 1990-91 with Greensboro. He ranks third in ECHL history with 685 points, fourth with 390 assists, seventh with 295 goals and 14th with 549 games. He finished his career in 1999-2000 as the league's all-time leader in games, assists and points.

The inaugural ECHL Hall of Fame class inducted in 2008 was Henry Brabham, Patrick J. Kelly, Chris Valicevic and Nick Vitucci, while the second class in 2009 was John Brophy, Blake Cullen, Tom Nemeth and Rod Taylor.
 
Around the ECHL -- Trenton goalie Dave Caruso, a Georgia native, made 53 saves in his homecoming as the Devils beat Gwinnett, 4-3. on Dec. 9. … Wheeling has outscored its opponents 18-4 in its current three-game winning streak. … South Carolina coach Cail MacLean is donating his used 1998 Jeep Cherokee to charity and Stingrays fans will have a chance to win it in a giveaway Dec. 5 The vehicle has 143,550 miles on it. … South Carolina currently is on a season-high seven-game winning streak, which is tied for the longest in the ECHL this season. … Bakersfield's Timo Pielmeier was named the ECHL's goalie of the month for November after going 6-1 with a 2.07 GAA and .925 save percentage. Pielmeier allowed two goals or less in six of his seven starts during the month. … Bakersfield Condors defenseman Stu Bickel scored his first professional goal Dec. 5, becoming the seventh player on the team this season to record his first professional North American tally. … Reading's 5-4 defeat of Trenton on Dec. 4 marked the eighth time this season the Royals have come back from a deficit to take two points. … Reading has compiled a 6-0-0-0 record against the Devils this season after going 3-9-2 against them last season. …Wheeling's Blair Yaworski scored 18 goals for Johnstown last season, 11 of which came against the Nailers. This season, playing for Wheeling, all four of his goals have come against the Chiefs. … Stockton surpassed 1 million fans with 5,104 for its game against Bakersfield on Dec. 4.
Quote of the Day

He seemed to thrive on his own and didn't really need any push from me. I certainly don't want to get in the way of the coaches. You see how that goes sometimes. I never really worried about it and just enjoyed the ride.

— David Ekblad on his son's [Aaron Ekblad] journey to the NHL, signing with the Florida Panthers