By Mike Mastovich
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – The newest Johnstown Chiefs forward is getting an education on two fronts.
Rookie Rob Lehtinen signed with Johnstown on Thursday, soon after his Northern Michigan University team was eliminated in NCAA play.
Two nights later, Lehtinen had a near miss in his Chiefs’ debut, hitting a pipe in a 3-1 loss at Reading.
On Sunday, the 5-foot-11 native of Marquette, Mich., netted his first professional goal in the closing minutes of a 5-2 loss to visiting Trenton.
“It’s big. It’s like getting a monkey off the back,” Lehtinen said. “But it’s tough because you want to win. That would make it much more enjoyable.”
While his playing career at Northern Michigan is over, Lehtinen continues to work on his degree in community health education.“Frank Anzalone gave me a call and asked me if I’d like to join for the remainder of the season,” Lehtinen said of the Chiefs coach. “I talked to my teachers and my teachers allowed me to do everything by e-mail. I’m still on time to graduate.
“Northern is a laptop school, so every student gets a laptop,” Lehtinen said. “They basically do all the quizzes on an online program the school has.”
The Chiefs have 11 games remaining in the next 17 days, beginning Wednesday at Trenton.
Lehtinen must juggle practices, road trips, games and study time.
“I’m going to have to do some homework during the weekdays,” said Lehtinen, who had 17 goals and 57 points during four college seasons. “We have a lot of games coming up. I’ve got to use my time wisely.”
Chiefs defenseman Geoff Waugh played three seasons with Lehtinen at Northern Michigan. The two roomed together on college road trips and now share an apartment in Johnstown.
“He’s one of my best buddies. He’s a great guy, a great player and a hard worker,” Waugh said. “He hit the post Saturday night but he played really good at Reading. It was really good to see him get a goal against Trenton.”