2003 - 2004
January 4, 2004
Generals halfway to reaching goal
BY LARRY KEECH
GREENSBORO - Midseason is a good time to take stock, so it's only appropriate that the Greensboro Generals will launch the second half of the 72-game ECHL hockey campaign tonight against the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies.
The disappointment that the Bullies dealt the Generals when they eliminated them 3-1 in the second round of the 2003 Kelly Cup playoffs became the primary source of motivation for a nucleus of veterans who returned to Greensboro for the 2003-04 season.
"One of the main reasons why I came back was to try again to win it all," said forward Malt Turek. "And most of the other guys feel the same way."
As much as second-year coach Rick Adduono appreciates that attitude, he recognizes that his current team has a lot of work ahead just to match last year's finish, let alone win a championship.
"We're going to have to get better in the second half of the season than we've been so far," Adduono said this week.
With 36 games down and 36 left on the regular-season schedule, the Generals find themselves locked in a tight race with five teams for four playoff berths in the eight-team Southern Division of the realigned ECHL's Eastern Conference. Only six points separate the Columbia Inferno, Florida Everblades, Roanoke Express, South Carolina Stingrays, Greensboro and the Charlotte Checkers.
The Generals' 21-14-1 record has earned them 43 points. A year ago, they were 23-9-4 for 50 points and finished at 42-21-9 to earn a second-place divisional finish with 93 points.
"We've had to overcome more injuries and call-ups than we had last year, but we're not too far off that pace to make up the ground," Adduono said.
Following is a breakdown of the midseason state of the team.
OFFENSE: The Generals have put one of the ECHL's strongest offensive teams on the ice this season.
Center and team captain Mark Turner has 32 assists and is among the league's scoring leaders with 46 points. Joining him on the No. 1 line are left wing Mike Bayrack, who is on pace for a 30-goal season, and Pete Gardiner, who recently returned from the American Hockey League.
Turek is having a productive season with a second line that has featured the shooting of left wing Eric Fortier, another prospective 30-goal scorer, and the speed of right wing Matt Elich.
The factor that has set the Generals apart offensively from most other ECHL is the scoring threat posed by defensemen Kurt Drummond, Geno Parrish and rookie Tom Reimann. All are among the league's leading scorers among defensemen.
It is a collection of scorers that also has provided the Generals with one of the ECHL's most reliable power-play units, converting 23.8 percent of its opportunities.
DEFENSE: From Adduono's perspective, this has been a sore point for this edition of the Generals. The abundance of scorers has left the roster a bit shy of tough, physical defenders. Call-ups (Ryan Bonni) and injuries (Kevin Grimes) haven't helped. Alexei Andreyev has been the team's enforcer, but he still is developing as a defenseman. The flip side of the Generals' success on the power play has been one of the league's weaker penalty-killing performances.
Adduono has acquired a couple of prospects to shore up the defense - Dave LePresti and David Vychodil.
GOALTENDING: The Generals have had to rely entirely on 37-year-old Daniel Berthiaume in goal. Even though Adduono insists Berthiaume has been as good as he was last season, his higher goals-against average indicates he could use some relief, as well as defensive help.
DEPTH: The Generals are a bit thin when it comes to defensemen and a third line. "The opportunity is there, but somebody on the roster is going to have to step forward," Adduono said.
SCHEDULE: The Generals already have played 21 home games and just 15 on the road. In the second half of the season, those numbers will tilt toward the road, where Greensboro's record is 7-7-1.
"We're going to, have to do better than a .500 road record, and there's no reason why we shouldn't," Adduono said.
INTANGIBLES: While Adduono is pleased with his team's veteran leadership and the attitude of his players, he's still waiting for the Generals to develop the kind of cohesiveness that carried them into the playoffs last year.
"We haven't come together as a 20-man unit," he said. "When you bring that special edge to the rink every night, it's what gets you over the hump."
Contact Larry Keech at 373-7080 or firstname.lastname@example.org