By MIKE MASTOVICH
After a week of practices, intrasquad scrimmages and exhibition games, leaders have emerged on the Johnstown Chiefs roster.
Count first-year coach Frank Anzalone at the top of the list. Anzalone has run his camp in an efficient, often intense manner.
But what’s perhaps most impressive is that one can see the teacher in Anzalone during just about any practice or game.
The veteran coach will stop a drill to explain exactly what he envisions for his players in specific situations.
He takes his time and makes his point.
The players seem to be responding.
“What are there, now, 25 teams? I can’t see too many teams that are working harder than us,” said fourth-year Chiefs defenseman Ian Manzano. “The last time I went to something this intense was when I was in college.
That’s what Frank tries to bring, a teaching approach.
“I think things are going very well. He is very organized and demanding, but demanding in a good way. Guys are accountable on the ice. That makes a team tighter.”
Manzano is among the leaders of this group.
While he isn’t a player who will shout and wave his fist, Manzano is a steadying influence.
Veterans such as tough winger Jason Spence and forward Dave Stewart are strong presences in any locker room. Goal-scorer Joe Tallari seems to be playing with even more purpose than last year, when he netted 32 goals.
Spence is in his seventh season and second stay with the Chiefs. Stewart, a former captain in Reading, is playing his eighth year. Tallari had 51 points as a rookie last season and earned an AHL call-up to Bridgeport. He attended the New York Islanders training camp.
Former Peoria standout Randy Rowe and seventh-year Chiefs forward Dmitri Tarabrin also have experience and know a thing or two about winning.
“Obviously you’re looking for things from Spence, a guy that’s been around,” Anzalone said. “He plays hard. He’s emotional, yet controlled.
“Ian Manzano is a quiet guy, but you look to him when you want a stretch run properly or you want to make sure the dry land workout is going well. All the guys that are veterans have to help you, not only for themselves to move up, but to help you as a coach.”
Manzano said the diversity has enabled the Chiefs to make the transition under a new coach with many new faces in the lineup.
“We’ve all got different approaches,” Manzano said. “Spence is a more fiery, vocal guy. I’m kind of more laid back. Dave Stewart is a combination of both.
“Joe Tallari is another player who leads. He was disappointed when he was dropped by Bridgeport. The first thing he told me was that was a bump in the road and he was going to come to Johnstown and work even harder than last year. He’s taken on a good approach and a good attitude. That’s leadership to me.”
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The Chiefs needed another shootout to beat Wheeling Saturday night in preseason action, as Dennis Packard scored in the seventh round to seal a 4-3 win.
The Chiefs trailed by a goal in the fifth round of the shootout when Joe Tallari scored to tie it up and force extra frames.
“The guys battled on the road,” Chiefs General Manager
Toby O’Brien said. “It came down to our last shooter and Tallari scores to put pressure on Wheeling. Fortunately, David Currie made two more saves and Dennis scored to win it for us.”
Currie ended the night with 28 saves on 31 shots in regulation and, according to O’Brien, made some big saves in the third to give Johnstown a chance to win the game.
Packard also scored once in regulation as did Jay Rosehill, and Zbynek Hrdel.