As the Jackals returned home last weekend to face the Fort Wayne Komets the focus was on familiar foes. Ex-Jackals Matt Carter, Christian Ouellet and Jordon Southorn visited First Arena for the final time this season as members of Fort Wayne, while former Komets Mike Vaskivuo and Nik Pokulok took the ice as Jackals. But by the end of the weekend the spotlight shined on fresh faces.
The firsts began on Friday as Riley Boychuk donned the Jackals home white jersey for the first time since October 25 (the home opener). The Abbotsford, BC native opened the third period with a rush up the right wing side and found Jakub Culek streaming down the middle for his first assist and point as a Jackal.
“It’s always nice to get on the scoresheet, but at the same time my role is not exactly to score goals,” said Boychuk. “But if I can chip in offensively and help the team out that’s great.”
Boychuk, who recorded two points in 18 games with the Albany Devils in the AHL this season, isn’t a prolific scorer but adds an important dimension as a tough forward.
“My role is kind of a hardworking player,” said Boychuk. “I go out there and be a power forward and crash and bang and take pucks to the net. The main thing is to finish my checks, so I have a power forward type of mentality.”
The 6-4 225lb winger was reassigned by New Jersey from Albany on January 18 along with 6-4 215lb defenseman Harry Young. Young, who had been held scoreless in ten games with the Devils this season, earned his first assist and point as a Jackal on Sunday.
“It felt great,” said Young. “I do play more of a defensive game but I have been getting a lot of chances lately so it was nice to get on the scoresheet, but more than that it was good to get a win under our belt and see the boys play a real solid game.”
The Windsor, Ont. native has developed some versatility in his game after moving to wing last season as a member of the Trenton Titans and Kalamazoo Wings.
“I feel a lot more confortable on defense, but I don’t mind playing a little bit of forward,” said Young. “It was a good experience for me and I think it helped develop some of my skills that I was lacking.”
Saskatoon, Sask. native Jake Trask joined the party on Sunday, scoring his first career ECHL goal.
“I was pretty excited,” said Trask. “I was waiting for it and I’ve been getting some pretty good opportunities lately so it was nice to get that one out of the way, especially against a former teammate in [Andrey] Makarov.”
Trask and Makarov were teammates last season with the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League. In his final two seasons in the WHL the 6-0 175lb forward notched 120 points in 123 games with the Blades. Trask was signed by Elmira on January 9 after racking up 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists) in 29 games with the Louisiana IceGators of the Southern Professional Hockey League.
The star of the weekend for the Jackals was goaltender Neil Conway. The Concord, Oh. native started the season with the Nottingham Panthers of the Elite Ice Hockey League in the United Kingdom where he posted a 13-11-0 record with a 3.17 goals-against-average and a .894 save percentage in 25 games. An injury to Maxime Clermont and an AHL call-up for Scott Greenham left the Jackals searching for goaltending help, which opened the door for Conway.
Although he never played in an ECHL game prior to signing with the Jackals, Conway adjusted easily to his new squad.
“I just wanted to give our team a chance to win,” said Conway. “You don’t want to venture too far outside that too much. You want to make sure you’re good early on to keep us in the game `cause you don’t want to give up the first one.”
Conway was spectacular on Sunday, stopping 35 of 36 shots for his first ECHL victory. He also appeared in Saturday’s contest and made 17 saves in two periods of relief duty for Brad Phillips who was pulled at the first intermission. In two games with the Jackals Conway sports a 1-0-0 record with a 1.20 goals-against-average and a sparkling .963 save percentage.
The Jackals will look to build on Sunday’s momentum this week at home against the Kalamazoo Wings before opening a five game road trip.