By Mike Mastovich
For The Tribune-Democrat
A pair of rookies straight out of college, Schwab and Shields knew earning a Johnstown Chiefs roster spot would be a challenge on a team with an abundance of players in training camp and more than a few returnees from the Ian Herbers’ tenure.
Two months later, the linemates are among the Chiefs’ most productive players. In fact, Schwab and Shields rank among the ECHL’s leading rookie scorers. They’re two reasons why the Chiefs have surged from an 0-6-1-0 start to 7-9-3-1 entering tonight’s home game against rival Wheeling.
“Definitely, coming into camp we had a lot to prove,” said Schwab, who netted his sixth goal in Wednesday’s 5-4 shootout loss to Wheeling and has a team-best 19 points.
“We were coming here on tryouts. We didn’t have contracts. Nothing was set in stone. That’s the beauty of the ECHL, nothing is set in stone. Both me and Shields knew coming in that if we played well there was a chance we could earn a spot here.”
First-year coach Jeff Flanagan was hired only about a month before training camp. Former coach Ian Herbers had commitments from 23 players before his August hiring as an assistant coach with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals. A large contingent of returning players was on that list, though many of those since have thinned out after trades, releases and injuries.
“It was really nerve-wracking coming in, not knowing if you’re going to make the team or not, especially coming out of college where you’re guaranteed four years,” said Shields, who has a team-high 10 goals and is second with 18 points. “It’s a different feeling to know that every skate could be your last. You just go out and work hard. What else can you do?”