Although separated by only 50 miles, the journey from Hershey to Reading can seem long for an ECHL player eying an AHL roster spot. Movement between the Washington Capitals, the Hershey Bears and the Reading Royals has been free-flowing early this season, with players like Dmitry Orlov being recalled to the NHL, and others being re-assigned to the ECHL.
“(The Club) is pulling guys in, we’re pulling guys out, we’re calling guys up now, we’re trying to send messages to guys, we’re benching guys, you’ve got to push buttons,” Coach Mike Haviland said after a November loss to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Last Minute Re-Assignment an Opportunity to Stand Out
Early on November 2nd, The Bears announced they had recalled T.J. Syner from the Reading Royals, and the forward made his 2013-2014 Hershey debut that same night. Syner joined Hershey late in the 2011-2012 season after playing four years at the University of Massachusetts where he was a nominee for the Hobey Baker Award. Although Hershey lost to the Baby Penguins 4-2, Syner was among the players to make a positive impression on Coach Haviland during the November 2nd game:
“We need speed. He’s been playing outstanding on all the reports we got… I thought he played great tonight. We need more speed in the lineup, we need to get up and get after teams, and I think speed kills. And certainly he and Walker were our best two guys up front tonight. They got up and got after it.”
“I need to wait for an opportunity to present itself, and I need to be ready when it does.”
After two Bears games and recording five penalty minutes, Syner returned to Hershey’s ECHL affiliate, the Reading Royals, in time to help his flu-ravaged team to victory against the Wheeling Nailers on November 20th. With six or seven players out sick that night, Reading struggled to match Wheeling’s intense physical game.
“They work really hard, they finish every check,” Syner commented on the Nailers. “It’s hockey—you’ve gotta be able to take a hit. They’re good at that, getting under your skin.”
“I didn’t think the first half of the game we were very good,” Royals Coach Larry Courville recalled. “ I didn’t feel we played with enough passion, energy, heart—all the things you need to be successful. And then halfway through the game, I think we got our legs.”
After a scoreless overtime, the Reading Royals out-scored the Wheeling Nailers in a shootout, bringing the team’s record against the Nailers to 4-0-0-0.
With a win on his first night back in Reading, Syner reflected on his time in Hershey and what the rest of the season may hold:
“(My time with the Hershey Bears) was a good experience,” Syner said. “It’s better to be playing down here than to be sitting in the stands up there. I’ve just got to wait for my opportunity again. The season is long… I need to wait for an opportunity to present itself, and I need to be ready when it does.”
Annie Erling Gofus is a freelance writer living outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She currently writes for http://www.summitolympus.com/, a sporting goods retailer with its roots in hockey. Originally from North Dakota, Erling Gofus relocated to Washington, DC after graduating with a BA in History from North Dakota State University. She has worked in several fields, including the federal government, museums, and internet start-ups, before settling into her career as a writer. You can view some of Annie’s work at http://annerlinggofus.com/.