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Beauregard goes from freezer to furnace

by Lindsay Kramer
Wheeling Nailers forward Thomas Beauregard desperately needed a goal-scorer's goal to assure him that the magic hadn't left his stick

He got one against Cincinnati on Jan. 8 and hasn't stopped beating goalies ever since. Beauregard, one of the ECHL's best finishers, has gone from self-doubt to the hottest player in the league. As the calendar pages flipped over to 2010, he was buried under the worst slump of his career. In 13 games from Dec. 6 through Jan. 2 he produced 2 goals, with both coming in the same contest.

"I was so cold. I don't even know if you can call it cold," said Beauregard, 23. "I felt like I was letting everyone down. Going through a slump like this puts a lot of questions in your mind. Are you still able to score goals? It feels like it's the end of the world."

Beauregard, who signed with the Nailers as a free agent last summer, had enough. On a 4-on-3 power-play opportunity against the Cyclones, he stationed himself along the right goal line extended. There was no angle there, and absolutely no opening. Still, Beauregard took a pass and put a month's worth of frustration behind a shot that somehow found the back of the net.

"I didn't even know how I scored that, to be honest with you," Beauregard said. "I'm like, now it's fine. I'm going to be out really soon from that slump. That's where I am right now. Now, it's going really well."

"I know what kind of player I am. I'm a shooter. I know if I don't score, I probably won't play hockey any more. With a streak like this, it's fun. I'm happy. You see a smile on my face. I'm doing my job." -- Thomas Beauregard

And fire is just a little hot. In his last six games, Beauregard has 8 goals. One of the most amazing stats of the year is the 5 goals he scored in three contests from Jan. 12-16, all on a grand total of five shots. His 26 goals pace the ECHL, and is well ahead of the clip that helped him put 31 on the board in 59 games for the Cyclones two years ago.

"I know what my job is. When you have only two goals in (13 games), you are not doing your job," he said. "I know what kind of player I am. I'm a shooter. I know if I don't score, I probably won't play hockey any more. With a streak like this, it's fun. I'm happy. You see a smile on my face. I'm doing my job."

Trading places -- There weren't a lot of travel logistics to be worked out in the three-player trade between Utah and Idaho on Jan. 13.

Since the two teams were playing each other at the time of the swap, Idaho defensemen Matt Sorteberg and Kyle Radke and Utah defenseman Dustin Friesen simply switched dressing rooms.

"It's a different day at the rink, I guess," Friesen said. "It was all-around just weird. I didn't really know what to make of it. It's part of the game. You have to be ready for anything, right?"

There were a couple other unique aftershocks of the deal. Several days ago, Idaho shot a recycling PSA to air in-game and Sorteberg was one of the players used in the spot. A technical glitch forced the team to re-shoot it and the clip made its debut during the first intermission Jan. 13 - about three hours after Sorteberg had been traded to the Grizzlies.

Secondly, Sorteberg had a plane ticket to Connecticut that weekend to attend Alumni Weekend at Quinnipiac because Idaho didn't have any games scheduled. But instead of returning to hang out with his buddies, Sorteberg got on a bus with Utah and headed for Stockton

Working the room -- Ontario forward Sean O'Connor points out that his wife, Brooke, says she always knows when summer is over and a new hockey season is about to start.

The sure sign, according to Brooke, is when Sean begins tossing about the one-liners and little barbs that make up so much of the dressing-room dialogue.

"There's nothing like being back in the locker room with the guys," he said. "She knows it's a lot of fun for me to be back. She likes that. That's her favorite part of me playing hockey."

Brooke got an extended earful of Sean's repertoire this year. O'Connor, 28, is just returning to work now, after signing a free-agent deal with Ontario. He started the year with designs on playing in Germany, but logistical and paperwork problems delayed his departure for there until early December. He could have signed with an ECHL team in the interim, but he didn't want the uncertainty of when he might leave to disrupt a potential new team.

Once he got to Germany, he sat around doing nothing while more red tape was ironed out. Finally, late in the month he decided to bag the whole idea. He cut it so close that he had to call Brooke, who was on her way to join him, an hour before her takeoff from Phoenix and tell her to stay put.

"I felt like I needed a fresh start. I thought it would be a fun experience," he said of his initial plan. "It turned into an ugly situation."

It became a lot better when O'Connor considered his familiar fallback option. Ontario is his seventh ECHL team, after Jackson, Augusta, San Diego, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Victoria. Overall, he has 166 points (102-64) in 288 games in the league. He quickly turned some heads with the Reign by scoring twice in his second game with the team, on Jan. 17.

"It's hockey. You never know what you're going to get," he said. "I've been lucky. I've been able to pick and choose where I want to go. When you're not at home, it doesn't really matter where you are."

Around the ECHL -- The 19 goals combined at the All-Star game on Jan. 20 was an event record. ... Idaho's Evan Barlow was named the MVP after contributing four points (2-2). ... Toledo forward Scooter Smith has five goals on the year, and all have been scored in Cincinnati. ... Gwinnett's 4-3 win against visiting Charlotte on Jan. 16 marked the first time the Gladiators won consecutive home games this season. ... Gladiators forward Dan Sullivan is 10 penalty minutes shy of 1,000 career penalty minutes since making his pro debut with the AHL's Lowell Lock Monsters in 2002. ... Stockton's James Bates set a team record with four goals and tied another with five points in the Thunder's 6-4 victory over Utah on Jan. 16. ... Florida and Bakersfield are the only two teams that are perfect when leading after two periods of play, both at (14-0-0-0). ...Toledo has scored 33 goals in its last six games, for an average of 5.5 per contest. ... Evan Rankin's hat trick for Toledo against Johnstown on Jan. 17 marked the fifth straight game that the Walleye has had at least one player score two goals in a contest. ... With a point in all three games last week, Bakersfield forward Stephane Goulet boosted his points streak to 11 games. The Condors record is 17 games, set by Paul Willett in 1999-00. ... Elmira has played in 94 straight regular-season road games since joining the ECHL in 2007 without being shut out. For the third time this season, that streak was in danger in the final three minutes of the third period in a contest against Wheeling on Jan. 17, and yet again the Jackals avoided the whitewash when Justin Donati scored with 61 seconds remaining.

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