J.P. Hoornstra, Reign Reigns
Three Reign players finished the season on the rosters of AHL playoffs teams: Shawn Germain, Beau Erickson and Chaz Johnson.
Germain had no idea he was headed to the Manchester Monarchs when he left Citizens Business Bank Arena for the last time, but Erickson and Johnson were already with Peoria and Manchester, respectively, when their ECHL teammates were conducting their end-of-season interviews in Ontario.
Erickson's AHL stint didn't last long, as Peoria was swept in the first round by the Houston Aeros, and he was the backup in all four games. With the Reign, Erickson was thrust into the number-one goalie role after Kellen Briggs abruptly left for Germany in January. That wasn't easy, but Erickson made the most of it. After losing his first five starts, he went 11-7-1-2 to finish the season.
It would be hard to invent a more fan-friendly athlete than a tobacco-chewing goalie from Iowa. Here's what this one had to say Monday:
How was your time in the AHL?
It went great. The coach out there (Jared Bednar) tried to get me when I came out of college. When he was the head coach in South Carolina, he was talking to me before I decided to go with Toronto's affiliate in Reading. The assistant coach (Danny Brooks) was the head coach at Brown, so I played against him in college a lot. I know the goalie coach (Corey Hirsch) really well. He was the goalie coach when I was in Toronto in the American League. It was a great experience, just to be back in the AHL.
How do you evaluate your season as a whole?
It was a new experience. I've never been in a situation where I wasn't playing, or at least having an impact. It was my first time where I had to sit and observe - I think I had to sit 12 or 15 games in a row before I got my first start in Ontario. I didn't play after that until after Christmastime when Briggsy decided to leave. But it taught me also how important it is to be a good teammate, how important it is to work hard in practice, help your team out in the long run. Once I started to play, I felt I got into a groove where I got that chance to play, play a lot. I thought the last 15 games were some of my best hockey.
You lost your first five starts. Was that simply a result of not playing much for two months?
Yeah. Everyone else had been playing 25, 30 games, then you get your first real kick at the can. I was working out kinks with my defensemen, my forwards, there was an adjustment.
What did you like about Ontario?
The fans are unbelievable. The way you get treated as a player is second to none. The whole feeling, the whole atmosphere. They run it like an NHL organization. You can't beat that. Being treated that way is huge when you're not making a lot of money. All those little extra things go a long way.
What was tough about playing in Ontario?
You travel a lot being in the West division but, like I said, the team takes care of you when you travel. We had a lot of faces coming in and out of there. it seemed like every week we had a new defenseman, someone was coming and someone was leaving. It was tough to get everybody on the same page. We didn't get a lot of help from L.A. Other teams I've been on, the coach had 5, 6, 7 (NHL-)contracted guys. We only had one player (Michael Pelech) on an American League contract.
Where do you see yourself playing next season?
Hopefully in the American League if things work out. If not, I'd love to be back in Ontario if the situation presented itself.
Are you only focused on North America then?
I've had a couple talks with some teams over in Europe, but I haven't made a decision yet. If I make a decision to go there, I have to make it rather quickly.
How is your back?
It's good. I'm healthy. At the end of the season I felt pretty good. The training staff was phenomenal. I went to Peoria, the training staff was phenomenal.