Guess tonight was a pretty decent one for Alaska Aces rookie defenseman Brad Richard.
Playing in just his second pro game, he notched three points -- two goals and a helper -- in the second period. In a span of just 2 minutes, 16 seconds. He doesn't recall coming off the ice in that stretch of a 5-0 win over Bakersfield. So, fairly strong shift -- Richard recalled scoring three goals in one shift as a mite, but, as you might imagine, rated tonight's performance a little higher on his career highlights.
"I don't know what happened,'' he said with a laugh. "I think I blacked out.''
Richard also went a game-best +3. And fired three shots on goal.
Not bad for a guy from Division III Hobart College, who arguably ranked ninth on a depth chart of nine defensemen when the Aces' season began.
But Richard, 24, excelled offensively in college, to the tune of 22 goals and 64 points in 97 career games. Coach Rob Murray said he liked what he saw from Richard in an exhibition game. Murray thought Richard struggled in his first real pro game against San Francisco, but chalked that up to nerves.
Richard said his colleagues on the blue line have helped aid his transition to pro hockey, where everything happens much quicker than the D-III level.
"It's such a change from college, especially from Division III,'' he said. "Not many guys get this chance. I'm getting used to the speed of the game and getting used to Olympic ice -- I think our rink in college was even smaller than NHL size.
"It's been tough, but every day I feel I'm getting better.''
When Richard talks about the speed of the game, he's not talking so much about skating speed as he is the speed with which players make decisions and move the puck. It's faster every level up hockey's ladder -- watch an NHL game and focus on how quick guys make passes after receiving the puck, then compare it to what you see at an ECHL game and the difference will be enlightening.
In any event, wWth Sean Curry (lower-body injury), Corey Syvret (upper-body injury) and Zach Davies (broken wrist) all missing on the blue line, Richard got a shot Saturday to impress. After all, sometimes it's about seizing opportunity and, as Murray pointed out, Richard didn't make the team as a charity case.
"This team isn't in the business of just bringing in guys to fill spots,'' Murray said.
Still, Richard said, coming to a traditionally strong ECHL club, and one loaded with proven defensemen, is somewhat intimidating.
"Every D on our team can play at this level, or higher,'' he said. "You see that, you see the speed, and you get a little overwhelmed and think, 'How am I going to crack this lineup?' ''
Sometimes, another guy's back break -- or in the Aces' case, tough injury luck for several defensemen -- is an avenue into the lineup.
And, for one night at least, Brad Richard, negotiated the journey well.
By DOYLE WOODY, adn.com