The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

March 21, 2006

Chiefs try to shore up depleted unit


The Johnstown Chiefs were desperate for a healthy goaltender late last week.

Over the weekend, the Chiefs earned five of a possible six points with a rookie from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in net.

On Monday, the team looked to make stronger a goaltending corps that will be needed down the stretch as the playoff-bound Chiefs play seven of their final nine games on the road.

Goaltender Josh Disher, whose rights are owned by the New Jersey Devils but is playing for the Major Junior Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters, signed a contract with the Chiefs Monday, General Manager Toby O’Brien said.

Disher, the 2004 sixth-round draft choice of the Devils, is the career leader in wins with the Otters, earning 72 in 168 games. The 20-year-old netminder also set a scoreless-streak record in Erie, playing 246 minutes and 50 seconds – equivalent to more than four games – of shutout hockey.

“He is a (draft pick) with the Devils and the only stipulation is that he is available for recall by New Jersey,”O’Brien said. “If he gets an opportunity to go up, that’s great for his career. We are just fortunate that there was a relationship with him from a few years back and it just all fell into place for us. We basically have two healthy goalies now.”

The 6-foot, 166-pound native of Oakville, Ontario spent three years with the Otters, compiling a record of 72-66-25.

“Josh is a 20-year old who has played a ton of hockey the last three years in Erie,” O’Brien said. “He is the all-time games-played leader and wins leader. Team MVP one year, MVP of the playoffs another year. This year, they were a very young team and didn’t make the playoffs so, fortunately, he was available.”

Disher will join rookie Gabe Winer, who helped the Chiefs get two wins and an overtime loss last week while on spring break from college. The team was left shorthanded last week after Morgan Cey was called up to the AHL’s Springfield Falcons. Backup Mike Betz is still recovering from an injury.

Winer helped the Chiefs manage a point in a 6-5 overtime loss at Reading on Friday in his first game as a professional. They then got a shutout from the rookie netminder in a 2-0 win over visiting Toledo and beat Wheeling 6-2 on Sunday. Winer made 102 saves in the three games, and picked up his first two professional wins.

“My hat’s off to Gabe Winer for the job he did here,” O’Brien said. “Thinking he was going on spring break and coming here and getting five out of six points. ... I must say in 11 years I have never found myself a day before three (games) in three (days) with no goaltenders. My hat’s off to the team, Gabe and the coaching staff. I try and find the guys, but they have to do all the work.”

Now O’Brien will have a netminder in Disher, who he has worked with in the past.

“He was a kid that I worked with at a couple of development camps in Toronto a few years back,” O’Brien said. “They had him in one of our goalie programs before he went on to Erie. So those ties helped land him here for now.”

The Chiefs host Wheeling for a 7:30 game on Wednesday night and travel to Reading for a 7 p.m. game Friday to kick off a seven-game road swing.

Ethan Blough can be reached at 532-5080 or