Reading Royals defenseman Ryan Crane is setting back the notion that to play in a pro hockey game one actually has to be in game shape.
Crane, brought in on a crisis mode last week, has logged 20-25 minutes in each of his first three games, scored a goal in his second contest and added an assist in his third.
His preparation for such a workload up to that point of the season? One men's league contest since the start of training camp.
"They (his Royals teammates) were pretty impressed," Crane said of his reception in Reading. "They asked me why I wasn't throwing up."
Maybe it's because by the time you're 29, you know how to pace yourself in even the most trying circumstances.
Crane was let go by the Royals after preseason and had moved to Charlotte last month to pursue a career in medical sales. In the meantime, he was working as a personal trainer.
"I figured maybe it's time to end my career, move on, start a real life," Crane said. "I was fine. I didn't really miss (hockey)."
But Reading coach Larry Courville
missed him. Last week, Courville, whose team was pillaged by call-ups and other personnel losses, put in a call to Crane. At the time, Crane was on a treadmill.
How about coming in, Courville said. Let me think about it, Crane answered. Hurry up, Courville said, because we've got a flight for you that leaves in a few hours. Crane was on it, and 24 hours later he was one of four defenseman overdosing on minutes for Reading.
"I felt like I'd been playing all year," Crane said. "It was really surprising. Not playing in three months, you think you'd lose a step. I was just worried about my hands getting back, and my hands felt good."
As it turns out, coming back may be the easy part. Crane has to decide what's next. He said Courville has asked him to stay the rest of the season. He's committed to wearing a Royals jersey through this weekend and will then re-evaluate things from there. One possibility is to keep playing, but to do so in his back yard of Charlotte.
"I thought my career was over," Crane said. "Right now, I'm taking it all in, enjoying every bit I can play. It's going to be a tough decision."
'Get rid of it'
-- The best thing that Wheeling Nailers defenseman Mitch Ganzak does with the puck is get rid of it.
Ganzak and Nailers head coach Greg Puhalski
agree upon that. But Puhalski would like it if his second-year defenseman tossed a few more biscuits on net. Ganzak prefers a tape-to-tape approach with his flicks.
Either way, a happy accordance has apparently been reached.
At 7-3-1 in its last 11, Wheeling is one of the hottest teams in the ECHL. In that stretch, Ganzak has produced 4 goals and 8 assists. Overall, Ganzak paces league defensemen with 26 assists and is second with 33 points.
"I've never been much of a shooter. I've always been a pass-first guy," said Ganzak, 25. "He (Puhalski) is right. The more you shoot, it backs the other teams up and opens up more lanes. Every once in awhile there'll be nice passes. But mostly, as a defenseman, it's give the puck to the forwards, let them make plays. They have more offensive skill than me."
There aren't many better complementary offensive defensemen in the league than Ganzak, however. As a rookie last year, he dished out 33 assists for the Nailers. That earned him a two-way contract with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, but Ganzak has seen just one game up there this season.
"I'm not old, but when it comes to hockey, I'm creeping up there," he said. "Being selfish and confident in my play, I feel I should be at the next level. A lot of players feel that way. You can't really dwell on it. Now, I just put it out of my mind."
O'Hanley break through
-- There's a lot of pent-up offense finally coming out of the stick of Cincinnati defenseman Brian O'Hanley
O'Hanley, in his second full season as a pro, is on what qualifies as a goal binge for him with 5 goals in his last 15 games. That follows a stretch in which he had none for the Cyclones in his first 29 games. And zilch in 70 regular-season contests for Fresno and Cincinnati last year. And nada in 12 games for Fresno in 2007-08.
Think he hadn't been hearing it from the boys about that?
"It was definitely a drought. It was on my mind. The guys were getting on me last season," he said. "You look at the net (now), have a little more confidence. You look up, see a little more net, maybe a little less goalie. Maybe you see a little corner of the net."
O'Hanley's overall comfort level with the Cyclones could be a factor in his surge. Last season, he was one of three players, along with Dustin Sproat
and Jamie Coghlan, who joined Cincinnati from Fresno after the Falcons folded.
Cyclones coach Chuck Weber made a no-strings attached offer to all three. Come here for the rest of the season, he said, try us out and then you'll be free to move on in the off-season. All three players liked what they saw last year so much that they re-upped with Cincinnati as free agents.
"It was really surprising. Not playing in three months, you think you'd lose a step. I was just worried about my hands getting back, and my hands felt good."
-- Ryan Crane
"It was great to take us all in and make us part of the team," O'Hanley said. "The city is good. It was an easy decision for me, and for the other guys, too."
Around the ECHL
-- Victoria beat Stockton in a 16-round shootout on Jan. 30. That's five rounds short of the ECHL record of 21 (Hampton Roads at Birmingham, Oct. 16, 1992). ... Stockton's J.F. Caudron
broke a team record with 5 assists and tied another with 5 points in a 7-1 win over Victoria on Jan. 29. ... Utah had a record 10,020 fans in attendance vs. Las Vegas on Jan. 29, the first time the E-Center has surpassed 10,000 fans for one contest. ... Wheeling has 5 shorthand goals in its last 10 games. ... Bakersfield has been out-shot only six times in 43 games this season. ... Reading goaltender Matt Dalton
was credited with 43 saves in a 3-1 win over Charlotte on Jan. 30. That marked the 11th time this season that Dalton has faced 40 or more shots in a game. ... With a goal against Bakersfield on Jan. 30, Marty Flichel
became the all-time leading scorer in the history of the Idaho Steelheads. Flichel now has 382 points (150-232) while wearing a Steelheads sweater, moving him past Cal Ingraham, who had 381 points (175-206) between 1998 and 2002, when Idaho was in the West Coast Hockey League. ... Kalamazoo forward Darryl Bootland
has left the team to play in Europe. Bootland recorded 19 points (10-9) in 25 games with the K-Wings.