By Don Stewart
READING, Pa. – Stability in ECHL hockey is about as common as truth in advertising. Still, John Morlang had a wacky week, even by this league’s standards.
The 24-year-old forward scored a goal Nov. 12 in the Reading Royals’ 5-2 win against Dayton. After that game, he learned that he’d been loaned to the Lowell Lock Monsters of the AHL.
Morlang drove six hours from Reading to Bridgeport, Conn., to join his new team. He was with the Lock Monsters for just two games before being sent back to the Royals on Nov. 17.
Morlang had an empty-net goal in a 6-3 win against Dayton on Nov. 18. Some of his teammates joke that Morlang told them after the game, “You can’t keep a good man down.”
As it turned out, the next day he was making the 45-minute drive to Hershey after learning he’d been loaned to the AHL’s Bears.
Hershey used Morlang in one game before sending him back to the Royals Nov. 21. Playing through a handful of minor injuries, he skated in a 5-0 Reading win against Trenton the following evening.
“It’s always good to go up,” Morlang said, “but that was a little hectic with the travel and having to be in the car. Driving here and there can take a toll on the body. It was great to be up, but definitely tiring.
“Bouncing all over is a little stressful.”
The Royals have endured seven AHL call-ups since Nov. 13, including Morlang’s two stints. These days, Reading coach Karl Taylor probably dreads seeing the voicemail light blinking on his office phone.
He fully expects to get another call soon from an AHL team wishing to sign Morlang. So, for now, Taylor is cherishing the diligent Morlang’s time in Reading.
“He’s a very mature, calming influence,” Taylor said. “You always know what you’re gonna get out of Johnny. There’s no guessing. He’s a very honest player, works very hard.
“He loves being at the arena. That’s something as a coach that you just love. There’s never a day where you see him dragging into the rink. He’s bright eyed, he’s the first guy or second guy here. He’s excited to be here and ready to learn and become a better player.”
While he didn’t meet Morlang until this season, Taylor already had a good first impression of the British Columbia native. Five years ago, when Taylor was in Western Canada recruiting for Red Deer College, he got to watch Morlang play in some Tier 2 junior games.
“I liked him back then as a young kid,” Taylor said. “So when I saw his name come across the wire as a free agent (last summer), he was someone that I wanted to pursue pretty hard.
“I liked what he had to offer. He’s still a young man. He started young as a pro, so he’s got a lot of upside still.”
Morlang was just shy of his 21st birthday when he turned pro in 2002. He played two full ECHL seasons with Columbus before splitting last season between the UHL (Danbury) and the AHL (Bridgeport).
In 46 games with Bridgeport, Morlang had 15 points and 19 penalty minutes and was selected the team’s unsung hero.
This season, he has four goals and two assists in 11 games thus far with the Royals.
“I definitely want it to be a lot better,” Morlang said of his season. “I’ve been struggling with putting the puck in the net. But I can’t really focus on that. I just have to keep doing little things and working on my shot in practice. Eventually it’ll break through.”
And, eventually, he’ll get another AHL shot.
“It’s always in the back of your head and you always hope to go up,” Morlang said. “But right now I think I need to focus on here and do well here, because that’s what’s going to help me go back up.”