By Dave Werstine
Long Beach Press Telegram
LONG BEACH, Calif. – Over the course of the Ice Dogs’ up-and-down season, coach Malcolm Cameron has searched for ways to pull his team out of mediocrity.
His answer might have arrived.
Cameron welcomed back ECHL Rookie of the Year runner-up Marco Rosa at practice Thursday morning after his three-month stay with the Milwaukee Admirals (AHL). The center is expected to play Friday against visiting Bakersfield (11-10-4).
While it will certainly be a bonus to have a player like him back in the lineup, both Cameron and Rosa dismissed any notion that Rosa would come in and become some sort of savior.
“One player doesn’t make a team. You saw that last year with the NHL guys,” said Cameron, noting how NHL players in the league last season weren’t exactly stars but how they made their teams that much stronger. “He’s just one more piece to the puzzle. I do know we are a better hockey club than we were yesterday.”
And Rosa isn’t expecting to make an immediate difference right away, especially after a relatively lackluster stay in Milwaukee, where he scored just two goals and added two assists in 27 games.
While he has mixed emotions about dropping back down to the ECHL, he is happy to be back with the Ice Dogs (14-14-3) and to have the chance to regain the form that made him an All-Star and one of the league’s top rookies last season.
“It’s going to take some time,” said Rosa, who had 34 goals and 31 assists in 72 games last year in his first pro season out of Merrimack College. “I just want to get better and help the team.”
While he feels it was a positive to spend three months in the AHL, it didn’t come without the negatives.
More of an offensive player, or at least two-way player, Rosa spent most of his ice time with the Admirals, an affiliate of the Nashville Predators, as a third-or fourth-line checker who saw spot duty all too often, which certainly didn’t help his numbers.
Also, he spent about as many games as a healthy scratch as he did with a regular shift, and his contributions were nil on special teams. All of which added up to a drop in confidence.
“I’m grateful for the experience but it was frustrating at the same time,” said Rosa.
He would love to go back up at some point, but he’s in no hurry.
“My goal is to move up, but I’m not worried about that right now,” he said. “What I am worrying about is getting my game back to where it was. I don’t think I’m at where I was last season.”
Cameron, who has had his eye on Rosa all year, is glad to have him back, and he will play Rosa on one of the top scoring lines as well as on the power play and penalty kill.