By Dan Saevig
TOLEDO, Ohio – “Hot Carl” is melting.
An hour has passed in the chemistry lab at the University of Toledo and Storm center Carl Mallette is living up to his nickname.
As the photographer re-adjusts the steamy studio lights to get a perfect shot, Mallette peels off his safety goggles now foggy with perspiration.
“This is hard work,” Mallette says with a smile and a wink.
The only player from either team to score a goal in the opener of the Storm’s North Division semifinal playoff series Thursday in Reading then calmly reaches into a bucket. With his tongs he snares a piece of dry ice that he transfers into one of the beakers in front of linemate and buddy Kevin Bergin, who sits quietly awaiting instruction.
In just 30 seconds, things are bubbling between the two and Mallette is again looking good.
“Guys call him ‘Hot Carl,’ ” Bergin said. “He’s got the looks and he knows it, too. But his personality is what makes it. He’s very friendly.”
Bergin says Mallette is like a brother. The same could be said by Mallette of Bergin.
George had Gracie. Sears and Roebuck were a match. Depending on their mood and touring schedule, Simon and Garfunkel can make beautiful music together.
The Bergin-Mallette show has been appearing in ECHL arenas for two seasons now and one would be hard-pressed to find better harmony.
After a stop in Roanoke last year and Greenville this season, the pair came to Toledo last month following a seven-player trade with the Grrrowl.
Great chemistry impacts the world. Their chemistry has changed the Storm.
Heading into Sunday Game 3 in the best-of-five Kelly Cup the duo have appeared in 10 games together for Toledo.
Combined, they have 10 goals and 13 assists.
“Their chemistry rubs off on everybody,” said Storm assistant coach Tony MacAulay, who coached both players in Roanoke before that team folded. “They bring their intensity into our dressing room. They have a strong passion to win and that passion is contagious.”
The chemistry experiment began last year when Bergin was a defenseman who wanted to play forward and Mallette a recently acquired face from Florida. The natives of Quebec quickly struck up a friendship and then approached MacAulay with an idea.
“They said, ‘We’re not telling you what to do. But we’ve thought of some things we’d like to do together,'” MacAulay said.
They haven’t stopped; on or off the ice.
Mallette, whose 80 regular-season points were second-best in the ECHL this year, wakes up happy and is happy to wake up Bergin, who isn’t a fan of the morning.
At night, they’ll go out for dinner – although Bergin admits he’d rather cook – and perhaps a movie or a trip to a local hotspot.
“He’s from Montreal and I’m from the country – Saint-David – where there are 400 people, maybe,” Bergin said. “We have cornfields in back of my house. He’s always giving me tips. The biggest was white socks with jeans and black shoes. That’s a no-no.”
But Bergin says not to be fooled. ‘Hot Carl’ is not always calm and cool.
Once a month, the Storm practices penalty shots by playing a game called ‘Moustache Boy.’ The last player to score has to grow facial hair.
In March, it came down to Mallette – who scored – and tough guy Rob Snowball, who hit the post.
“He could play for $1,000 and he’d be calm and put it top shelf every time,” Bergin said. “Game 7 for the Stanley Cup, I don’t think he’d be nervous.
“Moustache Boy? He was scared.”
With a smile, Mallette admits as much. It’s hard to argue when someone knows you well and you know it.
“I don’t know what will happen in the future but I hope he goes wherever I go,” Mallette said. “When you have chemistry with a guy like we do, you’ve got to keep it for as long as possible.”