Reading, PA – The Reading Royals of the ECHL, affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League and the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, announced that the organization has agreed to terms with forward Chris Bala. Last season, Bala (6'1"/195 lbs) scored seventeen goals and assisted on twenty-six others (43 points) in 46 games for the Royals.
Bala, who hails from Pottstown, Pennsylvania, set a team record last season with five short-handed goals (tied for second in the league), two of which turned out to be game winners. Bala, who also played 13 games in the AHL last year, led the Royals last season with three post-season goals–one of which proved to be the game winner in the only playoff game won by the team.
After ascending through the youth hockey programs in the southeast Pennsylvania area, Bala was recruited to Harvard University, where he had a stellar four year career, scoring 45 goals and adding 54 assists (99 points) in 123 college games. After a freshman season in which he scored sixteen goals and racked up thirty points in thirty-three games, Bala was selected in the second round of the 1998 NHL entry draft–fifty-eighth overall–by the Ottawa Senators.
After graduating from Harvard, Bala kicked off his pro career with the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins, where he scored 21 goals and earned a late season call up to the Senators. During that stint, Bala played in six NHL games recording an assist against the Carolina Hurricanes in April of 2002. Prior to last season, other than his time in the NHL, Bala had played his entire career in the AHL, where he had racked up 99 points in 253 regular season games with Grand Rapids, the Binghamton Senators, the Houston Aeros, and the Hershey Bears.
Last October, Bala notched his 100th AHL point when he scored a goal in the Milwaukee Admirals' 6-1 win over the Aeros. After five games in Milwaukee and eight with Hershey, he joined the Royals in late November. Bala then went on a tear in mid-December which included a seventeen game sequence through late January during which he racked up a total of twenty-three points (12g – 11a).
After battling through a mid-season ankle injury, Bala went on another tear down the stretch, picking up fifteen points (4 goals – 11 assists) in the Royals' last twelve games of the regular season. One of his goals during that time period was a dramatic overtime game winner against the Johnstown Chiefs on March 24, 2006, when Bala blasted a thirty-five foot slap shot through Chiefs' goaltender, Mike Betz, with 55 seconds remaining in the OT.
Bala ended the regular season on a six game point streak (2g – 6a = 8pts); and after being held off the board in Game One of the North Division Semi-Final series against the Wheeling Nailers, he scored a goal in each of the final three games of the post-season, including the game winner in the Royals' 4-1 win over Wheeling in Game Two of that series.