GLENS FALLS, NY -- Calgary native Taylor Vause is one step from realizing his ultimate dream of playing back home in the NHL.
The way he’s contributing, it might not be long before he gets there.
In four games since joining Adirondack on Nov. 18, the 23-year-old centerman has recorded a goal and three saves, including a key one in Wednesday night’s 3-2, come-from-behind victory over Toronto that extended the Flames’ win streak to nine.
“It feels good that they’ve got a little confidence in me, even getting a little power play time and [penalty killing],” Vause said. “It’s good to come in and make an impact and keep the winning streak going.”
Adirondack travels to Utica (Vancouver) Friday night with a chance to pull within one point of the first-place Comets in the AHL’s North Division.
Vause was in Glens Falls for the Flames’ September training camp, but started the season at Colorado of the East Coast Hockey League where he had seven goals and six assists in 10 games for the Eagles. In his first game with Adirondack, Vause slid a pass from right to left across the crease, setting up Mathieu Tousignant who buried the puck for the first goal in a 3-0 win over Chicago.
Three nights later, after Syracuse had just tied game at 1, Vause scored with 1.8 seconds to go in the second period, to help the Flames regain momentum en route to a 4-1 victory over the Crunch. The play epitomized the relentless, never-say-die approach Adirondack has displayed during its current win streak.
“I was just standing by the side of the net,” Vause said. “I wasn’t sure how much time was left in the period. Time was winding down. I really just pushed it into the net quite slowly. I wanted to make sure it went in there. I’m glad there was enough time left.
"Maybe it wasn’t the prettiest goal, but it went in. So it’s exciting for me.”
With several key players recalled to Calgary during the past month, Vause couldn’t have arrived at a better time. “He’s an intelligent hockey player that has a good skill set,” coach Ryan Huska said. “So he’s easy for a coach to trust when he’s on the ice. He works very hard and I think he’s endeared himself to his teammates in the short time that he’s been here.”
Huska has put Vause on a line with wingers David Wolf and Ben Hanowski, who has a team-high nine goals.
“We had a little bit of familiarity with Taylor from training camp and David Wolf has been playing very well over the last little while so we thought they would all work well together,” Huska said. “With all of our call-ups it really wasn’t a hard decision.”
In Adirondack’s latest outing, on Wednesday, the Flames found themselves trailing Toronto, 2-1, midway through the third period. However, with the Flames on a power play, Vause raced down the right side and threw a cross-ice pass that landed right on Hanowski’s stick. Hanowski re-directed the puck into the net to tie the game, which the Flames won, 3-2, on Bill Arnold’s goal with 2:50 left in the contest.
“We were having a tough time coming into our zone on the power play,” Hanowski said. “So we wanted to come up with speed. Vauser came up with a ton of speed and beat the guys wide. I just went to the net. He threw it out front, I just got a piece of it and it went in.”
To his credit, Vause understands his role and uses his strengths and assets to help the team as best he can.
“My speed is one of my biggest assets,” he said. “Coming in I just wanted to play with that speed and work off my linemates. I’ve got two guys that are working hard. I think we’ve had somewhat of an instant chemistry. You kind of feed off that.”
Opposing goaltenders and defencemen aren’t the only challenge Vause has overcome to pursue a career in pro hockey. He has Type-1 diabetes, which he manages with an insulin pump. Vause also has to pay strict attention to his diet because he’s allergic to eggs, milk, gluten, peas and beans.
Trained in graphic design, one of his favorite hobbies is designing specialty hockey jerseys including two that will be used this season by the Swift Current Broncos, a junior team that he played for previously.
Last Saturday, Nov. 22, the Flames wore special camouflage-style jerseys for Military Appreciation Night that were auctioned off afterward to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, an effort that raised $16,594.
Naturally, as one of the team’s more popular players, Vause’s jersey sold for several hundred dollars.
Vause split time last year between Idaho of the ECHL and the Texas Stars, the 2014 Calder Cup champions. Now, he couldn’t be happier than to be part of the Flames organization where he’s been a major contributor to Adirondack’s rise up the standings this month.
“I was always a Flames fan growing up so it’s pretty exciting,” he said. “It’s a great league. To be competing at this level is a great feeling.”