As San Antonio prepares to face the Oklahoma City Barons tonight in their first game of the Calder Cup Playoffs, the team will be ready for the challenge thanks to the valuable experience of several players gained while playing in the National Hockey League.
F Vincent Trocheck, D Alex Petrovic and G Dan Ellis all spent a considerable amount of time with Florida gaining experience and confidence. That experience has helped Trocheck and Petrovic mature and all three will be a vital part of San Antonio’s playoff run.
Trocheck was recalled by the Panthers in late October when both Dave Bolland and Brandon Pirri were placed on IR. After just three games with the Panthers, Trocheck settled into the team and went on a career high five-game point streak recording six points (1-5-6) in five games from Nov. 8 - Nov. 18.
He was reassigned to San Antonio in January where he helped them fight for a playoff spot. He was recalled by Florida once again in February to provide offensive depth during the Panthers’ playoff push.
Trocheck made great strides while playing in Florida, translating to a better offensive game and making smarter decisions on the ice.
Rampage Head Coach Tom Rowe noticed the improvement of Trocheck’s game once he returned to San Antonio.
“Vinnie is at a different level now from an offensive standpoint. He is very confident. He’s always been a confident guy, but now it’s in a different way. He is less risky where he might have used to throw a puck into the middle of the ice last year or even earlier this year, now he’s holding onto it and taking it back down deep or throwing it deep, so that’s been a big improvement in his game,” said Rowe.
Over the entire season, Trocheck played in 50 games for Florida this season recording 22 points (7-15-22) and gaining valuable mentoring from a veteran like Jaromir Jagr.
Petrovic was recalled by the Panthers in late January and stayed with the team for the remainder of the season gaining more NHL experience. He played alongside Dmitry Kulikov towards the end of the season and looked to veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell in the locker room for on and off the ice mentoring.
In just 33 games, Rowe noticed improvement in Petrovic since returning from playing in Florida.
“Petrovic has been excellent at moving the puck a lot quicker than he was and is making much better reads defensively- a lot faster,” said Rowe.
Petrovic has translated his leadership qualities to the San Antonio locker room and was rewarded with the “A” as voted on by his teammates.
“He is a quiet leader and guys respect him, and he gets a lot of room on the ice from the opponent because he plays a hard game. He is a perfect assistant captain for us,” said Rowe.
G Dan Ellis was recalled by Florida at a critical time when both G Roberto Luongo and G Al Montoya went down with injuries. Filing in during the playoff push, Ellis showed his calmness amidst the pressure and proved to everyone he would help keep Florida in postseason contention.
“I think when he got up there and go to play in the games that he did, he kept Florida in the playoff race and that was tremendous for him. Really happy for him because he is really a great guy,” said Rowe.
Ellis played eight games with Florida posting a 4-3-1 record and one shutout. He showed he could be relied on in an intense situation and now he will be called upon again. Ellis was named the starting goaltender in Game One for the Rampage by Coach Tom Rowe.
“We are going to go with Ellis in game one. That decision is made. The great thing about this is that we have three great goalies who have played well for us at critical times of the year,” said Rowe.
This Rampage team is filled with players with high skill, ability and the drive to make it deep in their playoff run.
“They are going to be in all high pressure situations, both guys, and they have earned that right and I think they are ready for that,” said Rowe.