Before hauling his wife and three children across the continent, Eric Boguniecki
needed to see a pretty big payoff on the Alaska horizon.
The chance to continue his career in hockey for many years after he's done playing certainly qualifies as that. The Aces have signed up the 34-year-old forward as a player/assistant coach, making the Boguniecki family trip from Cape Cod, Mass., to Anchorage long but worthwhile.
"It's very stressful, more for her," Boguniecki said of his wife, Elizabeth. "But you just kind of keep your fingers crossed. We were lucky everything went smoothly, and we got here safely. It's time to move on (in his career). Change is good. This organization is unbelievable here."
It also bridges the geographic gap with comforting familiarity. Alaska is part of the St. Louis Blues
organization and Boguniecki is a former Blues player and farmhand. When Boguniecki, who played with Iowa of the AHL last season, was sorting through his options into this fall, the one that leapt out was Alaska's overture to him to play and coach.
Initially, Boguniecki is working with the power play, compiling scouting reports and editing video.
"There's a lot to it. As a player, you really don't know how much work there is," he said. "Going to the American League and being a player wasn't going to do anything for me in five years. This is all about gaining experience and learning all about the hockey operations. When you are a player, you think about it a lot - what are you going to do after you are done playing?"
Although his transition is starting, Boguniecki may be a couple years out from dealing with that. His best teaching remains by example - he tallied 2 goals and 2 assists in his first five games with the Aces.
"When you're a player, you're still with the guys. You always view yourself as a player first," he said. "Whenever practice is over, that's when you spend the extra time at the rink. It's showing these guys how to make that commitment. I've seen a lot. I'm real excited for this."
Take 2 for Tifu
-- More than a month after the opening faceoff, Elmira forward Yannick Tifu
is starting his season again.
He doesn't count those first six games with Victoria. And why should he? With no points recorded in that span, there's hardly any statistical evidence that he even played in them.
"The only guy I can blame is myself," said Tifu, 25. "I probably put too much pressure on myself."
As one of the ECHL's great scorers the past few seasons, Tifu had quite an imposing shadow trailing him. Now, after a delayed do-over in Elmira, he's finally emerging from it.
Victoria traded Tifu to the Jackals in late October, but he had to sit out nine games with a visa problem. He finally got into the lineup on Nov. 20 vs. Wheeling, and then posted 1 goal and 3 assists against the Nailers the next night.
"Scoring that first goal, believe me, I was so nervous," he said of getting on the board for Elmira. "It was an open net. I almost missed it. I was like a rookie. That goal put less pressure on me, it made things easier and easier."
And likely harder and harder on opposing defenses. Tifu has been way more than a point-per-game player during his first three seasons in the ECHL. He looked to be on his way to testing himself with a new challenge when he posted 18 points in 37 games with Albany of the AHL last season, but a knee injury cost him 10 weeks. When he returned, he suffered a hurt back in the Rats' team bus accident.
"I'm not frustrated," he said. "It's not all about the points. It's how you play at both ends. I'm not known as a two-way player. But I have to get that in my game to be an AHL player."
'Huxamania' running wild
-- "Huxamania" is apparently a difficult affliction to cure even when its originator is wearing an enemy sweater.
"When you're a player, you're still with the guys. You always view yourself as a player first. Whenever practice is over, that's when you spend the extra time at the rink. It's showing these guys how to make that commitment. I've seen a lot. I'm real excited for this."
-- Eric Boguniecki
Idaho forward Adam Huxley
's return to Stockton from Nov. 13-15 was a memorable one, which shouldn't be surprising since it seems everything about him falls into the category. Wildly popular during his three seasons with the Thunder for his agitating ways -- hence the waves of "Huxamania" T-shirts - Huxley stirred the former faithful into a frenzy again.
He delivered a shootout winner in the first game, won a fight one-handed (the other was hurt) in the second and then had a goal and an assist in the third. Even better, the Steelheads took all three games.
"It wasn't about me," Huxley said. "If I get to contribute, basically send it back their way (to the Stockton fans), I was more than happy to do it. That stuff feels good."
It could also be the start of an Idaho chapter of Huxley's fan club. Huxley said he hasn't been able to yet stir the same emotions among Steelheads faithful because of his hand injury.
But he's working on it. Huxley, 26, is showing his versatility by taking a few shifts on defense and he produced his second marker of the season Nov. 20 vs. Victoria.
"I haven't been able to really send a message to the fans (in Idaho), get them cheering, get them out of their seats," he said. "People seem to like me. I hope they continue that. I'm constantly trying to better my game. I've worked very hard on my skating and passing. It hasn't come easy, but I feel like I've completed my game a little bit."
Around the ECHL
-- With six sellouts in eight home games, Elmira has eclipsed its 2008-2009 mark of five full houses, which tied for the ECHL lead. ... Utah set a single-game franchise attendance record with 9,304 vs. Las Vegas on Nov. 20. ... Wheeling recently went through a stretch of four straight overtime games, winning three of them. ... Kalamazoo is the only team in the league to produce at least three goals in all of their contests this season. ... Bakersfield has recorded a shorthanded goal in four-straight games. ... Seven of Reading's nine wins have been come-from-behind victories, including games at Florida on Nov. 18 and 20. ... Charlotte is 46.7 percent (7-for-15) on the power play in its last three games. ... Idaho is 12-0-1 when Tyler Spurgeon
registers at least one point. ... Johnstown defenseman R.J. Anderson
produced a hat trick against South Carolina on Nov. 22, becoming the first Chiefs defenseman to pull that off in the last three seasons. ... When Jay Beagle
scored for the Washington Capitals
on Nov 23, he became the third former Idaho Steelhead to tally in a NHL game in three days. He’s also the eighth former Steelhead to play in an NHL game this season. The organization had only sent nine players total to the NHL before the 2009-2010 season.