By Julie Pelchar
READING, Pa. – While the clash between his Reading Royals and Boston Bruins colors would make a fashion consultant cringe, Peter Hamerlik wears his gold, black and white goalie equipment with pride.
His pads, glove and blocker are symbolic of where he wants to play.
Like any driven young pro, Hamerlik, a Bruins prospect who’s fifth on their depth chart, hungers for a job in the American Hockey League.
But what’s most important for the rookie is that he’s found happiness while paying his dues in the ECHL.
“When hockey’s going bad, you hate it,” said Hamerlik, loaned to the Royals two months ago. “You hate life because hockey is your life.
“But if you’re playing good hockey, then everything is good.”
Good is how Hamerlik describes life after having spent the early part of the season admittedly mired in negativity.
Because Providence, Boston’s AHL affiliate, kept veteran Tim Thomas and first-round draft pick Hannu Toivonen after training camp, the Bruins shipped Hamerlik to Augusta in the ECHL.
The combination of being demoted and living 1,000 miles from Bruin country left the 22-year-old Slovakian searching for a silver lining.
He never found it in Georgia, where he went 1-5-1 with the Lynx, who gave him little support. His teammates averaged a goal a game in his six losses.
The skies cleared when Hamerlik served a brief call-up to Providence in December and went 1-1-1 in three appearances with a 1.91 goals-against average.
And ever since the Bruins found him a new home in Reading, he’s as confident and comfortable as he’s been all season.
The numbers certainly show it as Hamerlik has resurrected his rookie season. After going 6-0-1 in February with a 1.42 goals-against average and .955 save percentage, he became the first Royal to receive ECHL Saver of the Month honors.
Having gone 8-1-2 with a 1.81 goals-against and .940 save percentage, his record in 13 Royals appearances sparkles.
“It was a new start for him,” said Royals coach Derek Clancey. “He started off with a couple of wins, which certainly helps. He’s kept things simple, has worked hard and has made the big save when he’s had to.
“He’s a big guy, very square to the puck, uses his size to his advantage. And he’s very composed, a calm guy. I’ve never seen him get rattled.”
Maybe that’s because Hamerlik is closer to Boston, playing for a better team and, most importantly, winning.
“It’s all that matters,” he said with a smile.