Nineteen seasons of covering the Johnstown Chiefs have been filled with numerous ups and downs, unexpected twists and more than enough bizarre antics.
The long and winding ECHL road leads to Greenville, S.C.
Soon, Johnstown won’t be able to state that its Chiefs are the only original East Coast Hockey League team still remaining in the same city since 1988. The reality will set in after the final seconds tick off the Cambria County War Memorial Arena scoreboard in Saturday’s game against Elmira.
Before it all ends, this beat writer made his choices of the top 10 impact Chiefs players since the 1991-92 season, my first on the beat. It’s worth noting that I didn’t begin covering the team until the fourth ECHL season, and these picks reflect players who have skated since then:
1. Frederic Deschenes, goaltender, 1999-2002. The 5-foot-9 netminder played much bigger than his size. The man fans came to know as “Freddie” won 69 regular-season games and two playoff series in three seasons. The Chiefs front office labeled Deschenes as “The Franchise” when they signed him in 1999, and Freddie didn’t buckle under the lofty expectations.
He was among a group of experienced players and Calgary Flames prospects to end the Chiefs’ four-year playoff drought under coach Scott Allen.
Deschenes holds Chiefs records for most regular-season wins (69), playoff shutouts (three) and is tied for single-season wins (25 in 2001-02).
The Chiefs advanced to the playoffs in all three of his seasons.
2. Bruce Coles, forward, 1991-95 and 2000. Need a big goal? Put Coles on the ice. At least that seemed to be the Chiefs philosophy in the early 1990s. Coles delivered, too. He scored what at the time was a record 106 goals and had 227 points.
Coach Steve Carlson acquired Coles from Winston-Salem in early December 1991. The team had 11 wins and was on a four-game losing streak when Coles arrived. Johnstown finished with a then-record 36 wins that season as the line of Coles, Mark Green and Brian Ferreira combined for 126 goals and
270 points in 1991-92. An all-star, Coles played on four teams that advanced to the playoffs and still ranks second all-time in Chiefs goal-scoring.