By Mike Griffith
Californian Staff Writer
The Bakersfield Californian
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Frustrated with injuries and unhappy with his performance last season, Andrew Ianiero decided to take matters into his own hands.
He spent hour after hour in a local gym over the summer, came into training camp in superb shape and leads the Condors with nine points through the first eight games.
“This summer he trained like a maniac and it shows,” Condors coach Marty Raymond said. “Look at the way he’s playing hockey. Last year he had a groin problem and this and that … either the wrong training or not the right things to do.”
This season, Ianiero, 25, is back into the form that led to his selection to the ECHL All-Star Game and eventually 56 points in his first season with the Condors in 2003-04.
Ianiero landed in Texas the following year and, despite being on the worst team in the league, still managed 57 points in 72 games. Back in Bakersfield last season, Ianiero as well as Raymond were looking for those types of numbers again but the end result came up far shot — 33 points in 51 games.
“It wasn’t a very successful year for myself personally. I was a little disappointed with my production and getting injuries,” Ianiero said. “At the year-end meeting I expressed interest in coming back and (Raymond) expressed interest in having me back.”
Raymond left no doubt in Ianiero’s mind what he wanted from him.
“I needed a second line player who was going to be effective, get a lot of PK time and be a little more physical and drive the net,” Raymond said of what he wanted from Ianiero. “I told him I needed more points out of him. I can’t have a guy who is going to be a veteran next year getting 30 or 40 points. I need 50 or 60 and he’s certainly on his way to get there.”
Normally a left wing, Ianiero has spent some time at center this season, has been matched with different linemates, and has not disappointed.
“Every line he’s been on he’s helped and that’s a sign,” Raymond said. “Every line you go on you either make it a bad line or a better line and Andrew has made whatever line he’s been on better.”
Ianiero (6-foot, 201 pounds) said the turnaround started during the summer.
“I worked out with Sean Venedam all summer and that really helped out. We pushed each other pretty hard,” he said. “I think that was the difference having someone like Vinney there every day pushing me and me pushing him.
“Being in such good shape I came in (to training camp) mentally strong. I came in with some confidence. To know that I worked that hard over the summer, it was just a confidence and mental thing.”
Ianiero went scoreless in his first two games, had two goals and an assist in the third and has been strong since.
“Last year I got off to a very slow start and I think that messed with me for the next two or three months,” he said. “I was gripping my stick too hard and not making the right plays. I think 90 percent of this game is mental, a lot of it has to do with confidence.”
Raymond said Ianiero’s speed, strength and overall awareness are assets he’s utilizing to the best of his ability.
“He’s never going to be a super power- play guy, but his speed is a tremendous help to the penalty kill and five-on-five play,” Raymond said. “He’s very smart killing penalties. He makes very few mistakes, is active in the zone, and doesn’t over-commit.”
Bakersfield’s penalty killing is fifth-best in the league, stopping 87.8 percent of opposing power plays, and a source of pride among Ianiero and other members of the penalty-killing units.
“It’s just working hard, anticipating the play and jumping in when you’re supposed to,” Ianiero said of his talent for penalty killing. “But what penalty killing always comes down to is just out- working your opponent.”
And hard work comes easy for Ianiero these days.