By Mike Mastovich
For The Tribune-Democrat
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Randy Rowe isn’t the type of player who will deliver a fiery oratory in the locker room.
He won’t be the guy throwing his stick across the room or pounding his fist off the wall for effect.
Instead, the eighth-year pro leads by example on the ice and away from it.
That’s why it’s no big surprise that Rowe will captain the Johnstown Chiefs for a third straight season when coach Ian Herbers’ team opens against the Trenton Devils at 7:30 on Friday night at Sovereign Bank Arena.
“It is the guys’ team,” said Herbers, referring to a vote on the captaincy. “Most of them picked Randy as the captain. I get the final say on things. But they also recognized Randy was being the leader on this team as well.”
Rowe is entering his fourth season with Johnstown. Last year he tied a career high with 68 points, including 24 goals.
He led the Chiefs in scoring despite playing only 58 games.
“He’s not the most vocal guy in the dressing room,” Herbers said. “He speaks when he needs to. His biggest thing is he comes to compete and battle every day. He wants to score every time he has the puck. He wants to take the puck away from the other guy when the other guy has it. He’s constantly competing. He’s constantly battling. He’s constantly wanting to win.”
That desire was evident as the past regular season wound down. Rowe became the first player in Chiefs history to earn three ECHL awards in the same month.
He was ECHL Player of the Week (March 24-30) after tallying eight points in three games. On April 3, Rowe received ECHL Player of the Month honors for March, and a day later he earned Co-Plus Performer of the Month for March with a plus-13 in 14 games.
“It’s an honor to be a captain in any sport. You never expect it,” Rowe said. “The respect from the players and the coach means a lot to me personally, especially in a town like Johnstown where hockey means a lot. It adds a little pressure, but it’s good pressure.
“You want to go out and give 110 percent a night. The way I try to motivate is by working 110 percent every shift, every night and trying to lead by example. I try to take care of business on the ice.”
The Chiefs will open their 21st ECHL season on the road on Friday. Johnstown will host North Division rival Wheeling on Saturday night at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
In his second year as Chiefs coach, Herbers has a better grasp on what he needs to compete in the physical North. With an entire offseason to recruit this time, he appears to have assembled a very competitive team.
“We were looking over the roster from the start of last year,” Rowe said. “It seems like we’ve got a lot more depth this year, especially on the defensive end. We have seven or eight solid defensemen and any of them can step in and play on the power play or penalty kill.
“This is one of the top talent levels since I’ve been here,” he added. “We have a young team up front but as the year goes on, every game is going to be a learning experience for those guys. We can only get better. I think we have a little more of an offensive threat.”
“We’re a little bit deeper up front,” Herbers said. “Our defense is stronger than last year. We’re mobile at the back end and we’ll be able to get pucks up to our forwards and play that quick transition game.
“We’ve got two young goaltenders in net. Both are competing hard and both are battling for that No. 1 spot. Both are very good teammates. The guys in front of them want to play for them.”