Elmira defenseman Brennan Turner
has a front-row seat to one of the best shows in the ECHL.
From his spot on the blueline, he can enjoy the Jackals' offense, which is pacing the league with an average of 4.05 goals per game.
"Obviously, it's entertaining to watch. It's fun for the guys on the bench and the fans watching it," he said. "It's fun to be involved in it. But at the same time, you have to be ready for anything."
And there's the catch. On the rare occasion all the high-wire acts up front have been known to let the puck slip into the Elmira defensive zone, that's when Turner has shown his value can match that of any of the Jackals' jackpot scorers.
Turner, 23, paces the league with a plus-38. That's 14 better than the next-closest player. Much of that, naturally, stems from logging a ton of ice time for a team whose offense can play keep away with the puck and bury its chances. But Elmira's fireworks carry a high risk factor, one that sometimes backfires with quality scoring chances going the other way. Turner, usually on the ice against opposing top lines, is trusted with much of that mop-up duty.
"Sometimes it gets a little heated if the guys are turning the puck over, but the boys have been pretty good about that," Turner said. "You can't build a team strictly around offense. I try to be that rock in the back end for guys who may not be backchecking as much as they should. I think being reliable in the defensive zone is more important on this team than scoring. That's my contribution toward my team's goal of winning."
Turner has been known to dabble in both at times -- he has 4 goals and 12 assists in 46 games -- but tries to not get blinded by all the flashing goal and scoreboard lights around him.
"I've been on some fairly high-scoring teams before. I think when I was younger, I might have hopped into that temptation too early," he said. "As I've gotten older, I've gotten more disciplined in that regard. The biggest thing is knowing when to pick your spots. If you turn the puck over, it's usually coming back the other way."
Ianiero now a Bakersfield Boy
-- It's the oldest story in the hockey books.
Boy signs on to play in Bakersfield. Boy meets girl. Boy marries girl. Family settles in Bakersfield for the rest of their lives.
OK, maybe that doesn't happen all the time. But Condors forward Andrew Ianiero
said he knows a handful of players who have followed that course. He's one of them.
He met his wife-to-be, Jennifer, in that city at the end of his second professional season, 2003-04. He's been there almost ever since.
"I don't know if it's something in the water," said Ianiero, 29. "It's kind of a weird thing. Guys get here, they enjoy it, they stay here."
Here's where Ianiero breaks from that mold: few players in team history have enjoyed the longevity and productivity he has.
Ianiero notched his 300th point as a Condor on Feb. 26 with a first-period assist, and needs only three goals to reach 100 in his Condors career. He has 98 goals and 203 assists in 379 career Condors games, third on the team's all-time list. Ianiero already is second in assists, fourth in goals and seventh in penalty minutes (365) in his Condors career.
Earlier this season he became the 28th player to skate in 500 ECHL games, and he needs 14 more to move into the ECHL's all-time top 20 in games played. Ianiero also owns the Condors' iron-man record, currently at 199 consecutive games.
"The guys like to joke around a little bit and say I've been here so long I could be the mayor," he said. "You never know when you start out as a 21-year-old kid in professional hockey. Before you know it, you've hit your 500th professional game. I consider myself very lucky to be in the position I'm in."
Ryan finally feeling like himself again
-- With what he has to hope is the worst already out of the way, Wheeling forward Billy Ryan
is ready to resume the start of his pro career.
Six games into his do-over with the Nailers, Ryan has a goal and 2 assists, and 3 points never felt so good.
For someone who is just 24, Ryan has endured the hip problems of a man three times his age. After his senior season at Maine in 2008, he had a torn labrum repaired in his left hip. Then in October of that year, he had the same procedure on his right side.
That kept him out until January, when he joined Philadelphia of the AHL. Understandably rusty, he was point-less in 15 games there.
His left hip started flaring up again, but he still managed 12 goals and 16 assists in 22 games with the Nailers. He cleared up an issue with scar tissue in his left hip by having another operation in September, a remedy that kept him on the shelf until Feb. 19.
"Sometimes it gets a little heated if the guys are turning the puck over, but the boys have been pretty good about that. You can't build a team strictly around offense. I try to be that rock in the back end for guys who may not be backchecking as much as they should. I think being reliable in the defensive zone is more important on this team than scoring. That's my contribution toward my team's goal of winning."
-- Brennan Turner
"It's been tough. It's a lot of rehab when it comes to your hips," Ryan said. "I'm lucky that it happened early in my career, because I have a lot more time to reach my goals. I thought I had some unfinished business here in Wheeling. Through all the surgery and stuff, there's no other way than to be positive."
Around the ECHL
-- Reading got the first pro goals from two players (Matt Ward and Rob Slaney) and the first ECHL goal from another (Ryan-James Hand) to defeat Trenton 6-4 on March 2 and break a seven-game road losing streak ... The Walleye established a new attendance mark for a Toledo professional hockey franchise with a crowd of 8,200 against Gwinnett on Feb. 27. That pushed the 2009-10 total to 182,590, breaking the record of the 1977-78 Toledo Goaldiggers of the IHL (177,988) ... Paul Healey
has been named assistant coach of Florida for the remainder of the season. Healey, 34, played in 13 games with the Everblades this season after signing with the club in mid-December ... Florida's Ernie Hartlieb
scored his Everblades career-high 33rd power-play goal, against South Carolina on Feb. 28, surpassing Reggie Berg
for the franchise lead ... Kalamazoo's 4-3 win against Gwinnett on Feb. 27 was the fourth straight K-Wings game which ended in that score ... Utah's penalty kill has improved from 20th in the league to sixth since Jan. 9 ... Johnstown forward Chanse Fitzpatrick's goal against Cincinnati on Feb. 27 gave him a career-high 48 points (24-24). His previous best of 47 (20-27) came in 2004-05, his rookie season, with Columbia ... Reading is 17-5-4 in one-goal games ... Charlotte is 7-1-0 when tied after two periods ... Idaho needs eight wins in its final 17 games to best the club record of 44 set in 2008-09 ... Bakersfield forwards Mathieu Aubin
and Stephane Goulet
both skated in their 200th career games last weekend ... Charlotte goalie Miika Wiikman
was traded by the Rangers to the Coyotes on March 3, leaving the Checkers without a backup goaltender for their game against Cincinnati that night. Checkers broadcaster Jason Shaya suited up in a backup role while injured defenseman Chris Snavely replaced him in the radio booth.