By Brian Compton
After two solid years in Trenton, Stephen Wood was ready to make more of a full-time move to the American Hockey League.
The 26-year-old defenseman, who won a championship with the Titans in his rookie season back in 2005, nearly returned to New Jersey’s capital city for a third season in 2006. But when the AHL’s Peoria Rivermen presented that elusive opportunity, Wood signed on with the hopes he’d land at the Triple-A level permanently.
Things didn’t quite work out in Peoria, as Wood notched two assists in only 16 games. He spent a large chunk of the season with the Alaska Aces (8-16-14 in 25 regular-season games) and also saw some time with AHL Bridgeport. In the end, Wood spent more time at baggage claim than he did on the power play. He admitted the constant movement affected his play.
“It’s hard to settle in and it’s hard to just create that consistency that a player wants,” Wood said. “I never really had that consistency with the way my contract was. I kind of took a risk on playing in Peoria, because if I do get sent down I’m heading to Alaska. It was a tough year. I know I can play at the AHL level. I think it affected my decision on where I wanted to be the next year. I don’t want to be jumping around the United States like I did this year.”
Not long after his season ended, Wood called a former teammate. He asked Trenton Devils head coach Rick Kowalsky if he needed a defenseman. Kowalsky was thrilled and quickly contacted his bosses up the New Jersey Turnpike. After a discussion with Kowalsky and Lowell Devils GM Chris Lamoriello, it was determined that not only will Wood bolster Trenton’s blue line, but the Cambridge, Mass., native will participate at Lowell’s training camp.
“I called him pretty early after the season,” Wood said of Kowalsky. “I talk to him every now and then just to say hello. I wanted to tell him that if I do play in the ECHL, I want to play in Trenton. He said; ‘That’s great. We want you here.’ We just kind of went from there and talked a few times over the summer.”