It is that open ice up the middle where Monarchs defenseman Rich Petiot will clobber an unsuspecting forward with a flying body check. Snap your lights out like the slamming of a bear trap.
“I’m going to need to play consistent throughout the year. Play physical,” said the pro rookie Petiot when asked how he’ll make it to the National Hockey League. “Just keep it simple. . . . They like that I’m physical and they like my skating.”
The 23-year-old was the Los Angeles Kings’ fourth-round pick (116th overall) in 2001. He’s been up with the Kings once this season for a week and a half but didn’t play. What he got was a taste of where he wants to be.
“It was a good experience,” he said. “It was definitely good to see how hard those guys work and to see what it takes to get back there.”
Petiot came to the pro game via Colorado College, where the iron man played in 141 games. His only serious injury was a pulled groin last season that shelved him for 12 games.
“We play a lot more games here and that’s probably the biggest thing,” said Petiot. “You have to address it both mentally and physically, but now all you have to worry about is just playing hockey. It’s a lot easier not having school.”
Petiot’s not afraid of hard work. He is a small town guy from a big family.
He hails from Daysland, Alberta, which is an hour and a half north of Edmonton and only 25 minutes outside the small city of Camrose (population 15,000), where Petiot played for the Camrose Kodiaks and was discovered by college scouts.
“Everybody knows everybody,” said Petiot.
In fact, Daysland has a population of about 750. It is a farming community amid oil fields. Both of Petiot’s older brothers, Mark and Robby, work in the oil fields. Their father, Jerry, is the custodian at the Daysland School, which all the kids attended, and where their mother, Shirley is the school bus driver. There’s also 25-year-old Laurie (who smartly “stayed away from hockey” given her brothers’ penchant for physicality) and 18-year-old brother Dean, already 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, who is playing defense for the Kodiaks.
Manchester is a long way from Daysland, but Petiot feels right at home in the American Hockey League.
In just 24 pro games, Petiot’s three goals and five assists nearly equals his best college season. His plus-13 ranks him fifth in the league and is the best plus-minus for a rookie defenseman in Monarchs history. Petiot is on a similar offensive pace to Monarchs Tomas Zizka in 2002 and Denis Grebeshkov in 2004 that landed both of those then second-year North American pros on AHL all-star teams.
IMAGINE the street hockey wars of Daysland featuring the Petiot boys and 6-foot-5, 230-pound pro defenseman Matthew Spiller? Those games were not for the faint of heart.
“Intense” is how Petiot describes them.
Spiller also hails from Daysland and was a youth hockey teammate of Petiot. The Phoenix Coyotes’ second round (31st overall) pick in the 2001 draft, Spiller played 51 games with the Coyotes in his rookie season of 2003-04. He now plays for the San Antonio Rampage in the AHL.
ALL-STAR CANDIDATES: RW Brad Smyth leads the Monarchs in scoring with 11 goals and 18 assists for 29 points and his plus-17 leads the league. Before last night he was on a six-game points streak. . . . LW Jeff Tambellini leads the team in goals with 15 and is second on the team in scoring with 15-13-28. He has played in the NHL this season and is third in AHL rookie scoring, . . . G Adam Hauser is the all-time Monarchs’ shutout leader with 14 (two this season) and is second in the league with 13 wins. . . . Vote for the all-star starting lineups at www.theahl.com.
PARTING SHOT: The thinking fan’s vote for AHL all-star in Manchester goes to LW Noah Clarke, an all-star last season. Clarke is the third-leading Monarchs scorer with 6-15-21 and he has played with the Kings this season.
“He’s very valuable to our team,” coach Jim Hughes said. “His numbers aren’t there, but he’s a guy who does everything for our team. He kills penalties. He’s on the power play. He’s a heart-and-soul guy. He played the first 18 games as a center. In a lot of ways I’d like to see him be considered.”
A hundred miles North(!) of Edmonton. Man that's arctic circle adjacent. I just can hardly imagine, especially when yesterday it was 70+ even with the wind chill factor here in SoCal. Wish your bro luck for us Dean. Reading your posts makes us feel like insiders. Just one question what do you do in Daysland at night? (Old Daily City joke).