By Mike Mastovich
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – The past week has been an educational experience for rookie Johnstown Chiefs forward Radek Smolenak.
The 19-year-old from Prague, Czech Republic, had a taste of the American Hockey League last weekend. Then he watched some of the best players in the NHL as a spectator at Mellon Arena on Wednesday.
Smolenak officially rejoins his Chiefs teammates for a 7:30 game on Friday against the Charlotte Checkers at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
In six games with the Chiefs, Smolenak was one of the team’s most productive players, registering four goals and six points.
The Springfield Falcons recalled him last Friday, and he spent two games in the AHL.
“I played three games, five or six minutes in a game,” Smolenak said. “It was pretty fast for me. Everything is faster and quicker. Guys are stronger. It’s different to play in the American League than the ECHL.”
On Wednesday, the Chiefs players and front office staff were among 14,483 in attendance as the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 on Vincent Lecavalier’s breakaway goal in overtime.
“It was my second NHL game that I have ever seen,” said Smolenak, the Lightning’s third-round pick in 2005. “You see the guys like Brad Richards. You can see how good they are. They are on a way, way different level, a higher level. We can learn something from them. We can see we have a lot of work to do.”