By Mike Mastovich
For The Tribune-Democrat
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Three games hardly make a season over the course of a 72-game ECHL schedule.
But for Domenic Maiani, the three games he played for the Johnstown Chiefs in the final week of the past regular season had special significance.
Following two injury-riddled years at Ohio State University and a whopping four surgeries, Maiani was eager to hit the ice when Chiefs coach Ian Herbers summoned him on April 1.
“It was awesome to be able to play again last year,” Maiani said during the Chiefs’ Monday morning practice at Cambria County War Memorial Arena. “I thought it was going to take me a lot longer to rehab my knee. I tore my ACL. I broke my ankle. I thought it was going to take a lot longer. When I got here and was able to play, I was so excited. I was ready to go.”
Maiani, 22, hopes he’s ready to put in a full season with the Chiefs. He was among the first to report to Johnstown for training camp, which opened on Saturday.
But Maiani sat out Monday’s sessions with what he labeled a “mild concussion,” the result of a hit by Chiefs captain Randy Rowe on Sunday.
“It’s a short camp and there are jobs open and available. Guys are out here competing for jobs,” Herbers said. “We’ll see what happens. Domenic showed something at the end of the year last year. We brought him back to camp.”
Maiani had one assist in three games.
Even though his conditioning wasn’t at its peak, he displayed some potential.
“He’s skilled with the puck,” Herbers said. “He can move the puck. He can find players that are open and he can make the plays to get the puck to them.”
Maiani revealed as much during his freshman year at Ohio State, when he had 12 goals and 34 points in 39 games.
He also had 73 penalty minutes during that 2004-05 season.
But the knee and ankle injuries limited him to 26 games as a sophomore and 28 as a junior. He combined for 13 goals and 38 points during those seasons.
“I’ve had bad luck the last two years,” Maiani said. “I had surgery on my ACL, my ankle, my thumb and my jaw in the last two years.
“Mentally, it was hard. I was going to the rink with my team on the ice and having fun. Then (after the injury) I was just sitting there on the couch. I had crutches. I was getting so depressed. I rehabbed and worked really hard for six months to get back and ready to go.”
In his short time playing for Herbers, Maiani has liked what he’s seen.
“He’s a great coach,” Maiani said. “He actually teaches you things. He’s one of the few coaches who will teach you things, especially at this level. Most of the coaches nowadays expect you to know everything. He’s just a great guy, a player’s coach.”
Maiani would like to play an injury-free season under Herbers. He’ll have the next few days to make a “second” impression.
“This year, I’m so happy to be playing again,” he said.