The Charlotte Checkers' bus rolled about 13 hours from Charlotte to Elmira earlier this week. Most of the trip was just a rumor for goalie Ryan Munce
, who snoozed for about 10 hours of it.
"I normally sleep OK on buses. Planes, buses, cars, it just comes with the territory," he said. "I feel there's nothing else to do but sleep. Once you tuck yourself into bed, mentally you tell yourself it's time for bed. You just have to stay away from the snoring section. If there's a snoring section that will keep you up."
Here's another tip for drifting off easily -- become a pro netminder and play virtually every minute of your team's games out of necessity and because of production. It's a formula that works for Munce.
Munce, 24, has started 12 Checkers home games in a row (9-2-1) and 24 of the last 26 overall (16-6-2).
"It's good to have a break once in a while, but I find the more you play the better you feel," he said. "You want to be that guy. It's on your head. It's up to you to make the difference."
The Checkers have needed every drop of Munce's brilliance because after him, well, let's just say Charlotte doesn't want to find out. The team has dressed an emergency backup in 22 of its last 26 games.
That seemed an improbable dilemma to have a few months ago, after Munce recovered from a dislocated shoulder he suffered in the first game of the season. At one point, the Checkers had quality veterans Munce, Miika Wiikman
and Frank Doyle
on the roster all at once. For roughly three weeks, the trio divided practice time and games.
"It was a favorable situation for (coach Derek Wilkinson
), that's for sure," Munce said. "It wasn't great for us. But we were all three pretty good friends."
Doyle was traded Jan. 2, and then Wiikman went at the trade deadline. That pretty much emptied the once-deep goalie well, leaving Munce to earn his paycheck -- and his sleep -- almost every night.
"I was like, no big deal, I guess. Everything is pressure. It's goaltending," Munce said. "If you're a coach, you want your best goalie to take you into the playoffs. I have confidence we can go very far with this team."
-- Kalamazoo forward Patrick Asselin
had a hunch this would be a challenging season right from the opening faceoff. That's the sort of shadow cast when you lose a job before you even report to work.
One job search, one release and one trade later, though, and Asselin finally looks to be on solid ground.
A second-year pro, Asselin has 6 goals and 9 assists in 17 games with the K-Wings. Those 17 games represent five more than he had played this season prior to joining the team.
Asselin, 22, thought he had a spot lined up in Johnstown last summer until the coaching change there put him in the thanks-but-no-thanks line. He signed with Idaho in December, but played just three games in a Steelheads sweater before getting released. Utah picked him up, played him for nine games and then traded him to Kalamazoo.
"I knew coming in it wasn't going to be an easy year," he said. "You never know. You are going to be here one day, there the next. It's kind of a grind down here. I've just tried to learn as I go, stay positive. It doesn't do me any good to get upset or rattled."
Asselin has been smooth in Kalamazoo, starting out on the K-Wings' third line but earning his way onto the top trio.
"In Idaho and Utah, my confidence was lacking a lot," he said. "As soon as I got here I felt confident. I figured in time I'd move my way up. It worked out well."
Man on the move
-- Tony Romano
keeps moving on up, a progression that has its plusses and minuses.
Earlier this week, for instance, he was lugging a case of bottled water into his new residence in Toledo, a chore that carried extra cardio value because the apartment sits on the second floor.
After a few extra breaths Romano handled the workout pretty well -- no surprise considering how much practice the forward has had in flexing his relocation muscles in his young career.
Although he's just 22, Romano is collecting transaction paperwork like it was a set of baseball cards. He attended Cornell but left after one season to play in the OHL; was traded after his first season in that league from London to Peterborough; was shipped from the team that drafted him, the Devils, to the Islanders last summer; and now he has been dealt at the ECHL level.
"It's good to have a break once in a while, but I find the more you play the better you feel. You want to be that guy. It's on your head. It's up to you to make the difference." -- Ryan Munce
"I've gotten a little bit of a taste of everything," he said. "It's different going from place to place. But everything happens for a reason. So far, I'm happy with the player I've turned into."
The Walleye can say the same thing. Toledo, in the middle of a scramble for a playoff spot, has been sparked by Romano's goal and 4 assists in his first four games.
"The playoffs have already started for us. We're trying to keep that spot, possibly move up," Romano said. "It's always interesting to see what a new coach (Nick Vitucci
) can teach you. It's a new start at the end of the year. It's a valuable experience."
Around the ECHL
-- Elmira's Tyler Donati
broke a team record for points in a season by posting his 94th against Cincinnati on March 13. Randy Murphy
was the previous record holder with 93 points in the 2002-03 season. ... Dating to Jan. 22, Elmira has won eight straight road games. The ECHL record for consecutive road victories is 10, accomplished most recently by the Long Beach Ice Dogs in 2006. ... Playing against Gwinnett on March 13, newly acquired defenseman Trevor Hendrikx
became the fifth Checkers player this season to score a goal in his first game, joining Ryan Crane, Mike Harder
, Randy Rowe
and Matt Stefanishion
. ... Wheeling won the 173rd and last game in its long rivalry with the Johnstown Chiefs on March 13. Wheeling and Johnstown have played against each other more than any two teams in ECHL history, with the Nailers taking the all-time series by a 92-60-21 count. ... Playing in his 700th pro career game, Kalamazoo's Sam Ftorek recorded his 200th career goal, against Wheeling on March 14. ... Utah is 8-0-2 when Lance Galbraith
scores a goal. ... Gwinnett will sign two-time baseball Cy Young Award winner Tom Glavine to be an honorary member of the team for its March 20 home game against the Trenton Devils. Glavine will skate with the team for player introductions and pre-game ceremonies before the Gladiators honor him as their first inductee into the "Be A Gladiator" Hall of Fame in recognition of his contributions to the community. ... Bakersfield is three wins shy of tying the team record for home wins (24, 2005-06). The Condors have five home games remaining. ... Cincinnati established a club record with its 15th shorthand goal of the season in a win at Elmira on March 13. ... Stockton has agreed to terms on an amateur tryout agreement with defenseman Trevor Hunt, brother of Thunder left wing Garet Hunt
. This marks the first time in Thunder history two sets of brothers have been on the team's active roster (along with forwards Brett and Colin Hemingway