By Tim Leone
Of The Patriot-News
After a dozen games without a goal, Stephen Werner was dispatched to the ECHL for rookie seasoning.
The forward packed some disappointment along with his belongings, but he also brought a good attitude and generated positive reviews in 24 games for the South Carolina Stingrays.
This week he got a return trip to the Hershey Bears, whose depleted roster isn’t as deep at forward as it was when Werner departed in early December. The 22-year-old, who had nine goals and six assists for South Carolina, is slated to be in Hershey’s lineup Friday at Manchester for the first time since Dec. 1.
“Obviously, I was a little disappointed when I got sent down,” Werner said. “I knew it was just an opportunity for me to get some ice time and try to improve my game. I got off to a pretty good start. I injured my shoulder and was out for about a month, but I’m back and pretty healthy right now.”
Werner got loads of ice time and played in all situations. Neither was the case at the beginning of the season in Hershey, where he was scratched eight times and drew mostly checking-line duty when he played.
“I believe it’s a great teaching tool; it’s a great first-year step [to send a player to the ECHL],” said Bears head coach Bruce Boudreau, who coached in the ECHL. “I don’t understand why teams don’t do it more often with first-year guys that are not going to play regular in the American Hockey League.
“They’re getting ice time there. They’re playing and they’re learning how to play hockey rather than learning how to play college hockey or junior hockey, which is more all emotion. Once you get to the pro level, it’s intelligence and emotion that take over.”