By Marek Warszawski
The Fresno Bee
FRESNO, Calif. – Matt O’Dette let out a big laugh when asked to recall the last time he scored two goals in a game.
“It’s been a while,” the Fresno Falcons defenseman said. “Probably junior hockey. Probably when I was 12 years old. No, make that 14.”
Armed with a batch of new sticks, O’Dette recorded the first multi-goal game of his 10-year pro career during a 7-5 victory over the Long Beach Ice Dogs on Feb. 25. The two goals doubled his scoring output for the season.
Before the game, O’Dette paraded around the Falcons locker room showing off his new sticks and remarking how good they felt in his hands.
“I’ve been waiting on those sticks all season,” O’Dette said. “They definitely improved my shot, but it could’ve been a full moon. I don’t know.”
Because his primary responsibility is keeping the puck out of his own net, O’Dette normally doesn’t get too many scoring chances. But when the shots present themselves, as they did on Feb. 25, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound team captain isn’t afraid to take them.
O’Dette has 34 career goals in more than 500 games. In 2002, while playing for the Quebec Citadelles of the American Hockey League, he was called up by the Montreal Canadiens for the NHL playoffs but did not appear in a game.
“Matty’s got a really good shot from the point,” Falcons assistant coach Ryan Mougenel said, “although sometimes he needs a runway to get it off.”
When informed of Mougenel’s comment, O’Dette laughed again. The two have been good friends since they were junior hockey teammates.
“A big guy like me takes a split-second longer to get a shot off,” O’Dette said. “It gets blocked more than you’d like.”
Fresno might need more scoring from unexpected sources to make it through this weekend, which includes consecutive home games Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Making matters worse, the Falcons are down to four defensemen after Dustin VanBallegooie was loaned Wednesday to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL. VanBallegooie’s return is uncertain.
With Tom Walsh already in the AHL and Riley Day sidelined for another two or three weeks, the burden of defense falls to O’Dette, Pierre-Olivier Beaulieu, Cory Murphy and Tomas Fojtik, a converted forward.
“We don’t have a lot of options right now,” O’Dette said. “It’ll be all right. We just have to play smart and conserve our energy when we can.”