By Mike Mastovich
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Playing in the American Hockey League, no matter how long the assignment, often is an educational experience for a rookie.
Left wing Radek Smolenak returned to the Johnstown Chiefs on Tuesday after spending a month with the AHL’s Springfield Falcons. The 20-year-old Czech Republic native now will apply that experience with the ECHL’s Chiefs.
“Every time when you’re up there, you have the opportunity to learn something and get better at some things,” said Smolenak, who was scoreless in 14 AHL games. “I was glad I was there. Too bad I couldn’t be there longer for the season. But I’m in Johnstown now and I’m pretty excited to be with these guys again. Hopefully I’ll play good hockey.”
With the Chiefs, Smolenak has 12 goals and 10 assists for 22 points in 30 games.
Goaltender Gerald Coleman also returned to Johnstown Tuesday after going 2-1 with a 2.01 goals against average and .940 save percentage in three games with the Falcons. Coleman made 36 saves in a 5-2 win over Hartford on Feb. 10.
Forward Adam Henrich, who had scored a pair of goals on Sunday for the Chiefs, was recalled by the Falcons on Tuesday. In 32 ECHL games, Henrich has 34 points, with a team-best 15 goals. He had 12 points in his last six games with Johnstown.
“I talked to the guys. I always check out the scores every game,” Smolenak said of the Chiefs, who are 6-2-1 in the past nine games. “The guys were doing a good job. I just hope to keep it going and help the team a little bit more. I hope we win some more games and get our spot in the playoffs.”
The Chiefs visit Wheeling on Friday and Saturday. Springfield hosts the AHL-leading Norfolk Admirals tonight at the MassMutual Center.
“The play is fast and quicker,” the 6-foot-3, 204-pound Smolenak said of the AHL. “You’ve got to keep it simple up there. When you’re a rookie, it’s very hard to read the game up there. That’s probably the biggest thing I had to improve. I had to be in the right spot when you had to be there. That’s the biggest difference.”