It's a fine line Idaho Steelheads captain Marty Flichel
straddles these days.
Most mornings he remains in the world he knows best, playing hockey with the Steelheads. By afternoon he's literally laying the groundwork for his future by managing a landscaping business he runs in Boise.
"I look after about 80 places a week here," he said. "It's pretty busy. My game days I try to keep just to hockey. Some days are a little over-bearing."
Flichel, 34, plows through it all because he knows the day soon is coming when he'll have more time than he knows what to do with. That's what makes the Steelheads' run to the National Conference finals a little sweeter for him than anyone else.
Flichel has made Boise his continuous home since joining Idaho's ECHL franchise what seems like an eternity ago, in the 2004-05 season. He's been part of its run of success, including a Kelly Cup in 2006-07. It's a stretch that he understands is way closer to the end than any other milepost.
Flichel, a forward, is still a regular contributor. He went 14-40 in 65 games this season, and has 5 assists in four playoff games. But if he has to shade one way or another, he's going to risk leaving the game too early rather than too late.
"It's a fine line. I just want to be able to say, 'I've had enough,' and just walk away," he said. "You always think you can keep up and play."
Flichel, who is married with two young daughters, keeps getting pulled back to the rink by what he views as his extended family. He admits he isn't going anywhere, either geographically or in his hockey career. But he tries to pass on whatever he can to help his teammates progress up and around the sport's ladder.
"It's a pleasure to get down to the rink and see those guys every day," he said. "The guys give it to me here and there (about his age). I've got a few years on some of these guys, so hopefully I can help them like guys helped me when I was young."
Those young guys cut into Flichel's ice time in key situations, a tradeoff he happily accepts if it means the season keeps going. Once it ends, no matter what the result, he knows he'll be staring at the same tough decision he mulls every summer.
"Some guys say, how many people go out a winner?" he said. "At the same time, if we win and I feel good, I might want to come back for another year. It's going to be tough to hang them up. But eventually it's going to happen."
At home in Reading
-- Success for veteran forward Marc Cavosie
this season came down to a matter of finding the right fit.
After a disappointing start, he discovered that match in two places -- on the left wing and in Reading.
Cavosie, 28, began the year by trying to win a job in Lake Erie of the AHL, the league he's played in for most of his career. The Monsters had a hole in the middle. That's not Cavosie's strength, but he raised his hand anyway.
"I'm just not as offensively inclined when I play center," he said. "It seemed not to be working out for a bit. I wasn't doing enough to stay there. Maybe it was my fault for taking the contract. But you always want to be at that level. It didn't work out. I'm too old to look back and have regrets."
And right now, way too busy. Lake Erie released him after 16 games and Cavosie slid into a job with the Royals and a spot back at his natural wing position. He went 9-26 in 38 regular-season games with Reading and has contributed 5 goals and 4 assists to help the team advance to the American Conference finals.
"I love the playoffs. There's a lot more energy in the games. I enjoy the hockey down here," Cavosie said. "It's a little different game now than when I was younger. It's hard for some of the older players to find jobs. You have a good end of the year, you never know what doors open up."
Stockton's defense stifles
-- The way Stockton coach Matt Thomas looks at it, the regular season is for practice and the playoffs are for implementation.
When applied to his defense, that approach has choked off some of the ECHL's top threats in helping the Thunder power through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
The six-pack of Ryan Constant
, Bryan Young
, Steve Vanoosten, Anthony Aiello
, Jordan Bendfeld
and Daryl Marcoux combined to limit Alaska's Eric Boguniecki
to just 2 assists and a minus-5 in four games.
"Some guys say, how many people go out a winner? At the same time, if we win and I feel good, I might want to come back for another year. It's going to be tough to hang them up. But eventually it's going to happen."
-- Marty Flichel
Then, the group turned its sour mood on Bakersfield's Kyle Calder
and McGregor Sharp in the second round. Through the first four games of that series Calder and Sharp had just 1 assist and were a combined minus-9.
Statistically, Stockton's defense isn't the best in the playoffs, a quirk Thomas attributes to some laxness when holding big leads. But overall he's delighted with the way his group has taken the lessons of containment honed during the less-important regular season and used it as the foundation of a layered, attacking defense in the playoffs.
"This group of guys, they've come in and shut down some talented players," Thomas said. "Containing is an early season style of play. You make sure you learn where to be positionally. In the playoffs, we contain to be able to engage. As soon as we know we're in the right position, we're going to close the gap on you hard. We understand where we need to be. That's what six months (in the regular season) has done for us."
Around the ECHL
-- Home teams had been 13-6 all-time in ECHL playoff Game 7s before Cincinnati beat host Charlotte in the deciding game of the American Conference semis April 28. ... Florida coach Malcolm Cameron has resigned to pursue coaching opportunities elsewhere. He finished with a record of 87-42-14 in two seasons in Florida and led the Everblades to the playoffs in both seasons. ... Charlotte goalie Ryan Munce
's shutout of Cincinnati in Game 6 of the American Conference semifinals April 27 was his second blanking of the postseason. ... Stockton has scored 15 goals combined in its elimination victories against Alaska and Bakersfield in this season's playoffs. ... Reading has scored first in eight of the team's nine postseason games this year. ... Every player on the Royals' playoff roster except two (defensemen Joey Ryan and Scott Fletcher) has registered at least 1 point in the postseason, including goaltender Matt Dalton
, who has a pair of assists. ... Justin Kemp has been named new president of Ontario. He has worked as Executive Vice President of Business Operations for the team since 2007, overseeing all aspects of the business operation. ... Wade Welsh has resigned as vice president/general manager of the Kalamazoo Wings to pursue interests outside of hockey. Welsh started with the K-Wings six years ago as the organization's assistant general manager and was promoted to general manager in June 2007.