By MIKE MASTOVICH
Like most players involved in a trade, goaltender Ryan Munce learned he was headed to Johnstown, via Toledo, when he least expected such news.
“It came as a big surprise to me. I was on the road with Manchester of the AHL in San Antonio,” said Munce, a former Reading Royals netminder who was with that team’s AHL affiliate when the deal was made. “I was told that I was going to meet with Hubie McDonough, the (Manchester Monarchs) director of operations. Then I got a call from (Manchester GM) Ron Hextall. He told me, ‘We traded you and your rights to Tampa Bay.’ It was a shocker and a fast turnaround. I had to get my things ready and didn’t have any time to process things.”
The Tampa Bay Lightning acquired Munce from the Los Angeles Kings – the parent team of both Manchester and Reading – for a fourth-round draft pick in 2008. The Lightning then assigned Munce to their ECHL affiliate here.
Another twist to the transaction had Munce meeting the Chiefs for a Sunday afternoon game at Toledo.
“I found out at 2 p.m. on Saturday and had a flight out of San Antonio at 4 p.m.,” Munce said. “I got in about 11 o’clock that night to Toledo and played the next afternoon.”
The Kings’ third-round draft pick in 2003 stopped 20 of 21 shots after entering the Toledo game in relief of Morgan Cey.
The Chiefs lost 3-0 at the Sports Arena.
“I was a little tired going into the game because of all the travel, but I definitely was awakened by the game and what was going on,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting to go in. It was very sudden. Cey was playing well. I’m guessing it was a spark-the-team sort of thing. I was nervous in there but I settled down by the middle of the third period.”
Johnstown will visit Trenton tonight, and Munce might see more action.
The Munce trade might be a sign of things to come for a last-place Chiefs team that has dropped six of seven games since Jan. 5. Johnstown now has three solid goaltenders, all prospects, in Morgan Cey, Gerald Coleman and Munce.
Coleman has missed most of the past month with a leg injury, but has been cleared to resume play, Chiefs Vice President of Hockey Operations Ryan Belec said.
“Tampa Bay acquired a goaltender and assigned him here to Johnstown,” Belec said. “We’re always happy when Tampa assigns quality players here, and Ryan Munce certainly fits that bill. For the foreseeable future, we’re going to have three goaltenders here and we’re going to use that to our advantage.
“Gerald is doing well. He’s now cleared through the injury but he just hasn’t seen a lot of ice time of late. Having the two goalies is going to allow Gerald the time to practice this week and we don’t have to rush him back into the game.”
Belec didn’t rule out more moves on a team loaded with Lightning and Springfield contract players.
He said that doesn’t mean Tampa will make a trade simply to swing a deal. Belec said he’s hoping that the team will snap out of this skid by putting in a better effort. The VP’s other duties with Tampa Bay forced him to miss the Chiefs’ past few games, but Belec conceded he’s heard multiple reports questioning some players’ work ethic.
“If it’s one that’s right for us and it will help the Chiefs win hockey games, we’re certainly going to do it,” Belec said of a potential trade. “We’re running up the phone lines and the e-mail. But nothing is imminent. We believe we have a good cast of players here now. But when you’re not winning, you certainly have to field the phone calls and make some phone calls to see what options might be out there.”
Munce’s credentials are rock solid.
Last season the goalie won 30 games for Bakersfield. This year, he appeared in 17 games with Reading, going 5-6-4, and was called up twice to Manchester.
While in Reading, Munce lost twice to the Chiefs – a 5-3 game at the Sovereign Center on Nov. 3 and a 3-2 shootout at the War Memorial on Dec. 2.
With Bakersfield, he stopped 35 shots and turned away all five shootout attempts in a 2-1 Condors win over the visiting Chiefs on Nov. 30, 2005.
“I think about what I could bring to the plate and what I can do to help this team,” Munce said. “This team didn’t look like it had any problems with goaltending. Coleman and Cey are both very good goaltenders. It’s good to join a tandem. Who knows how long all three of us will be here? We’re all capable goaltenders. It’s a matter of who can pull out the most wins for this team.”
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Awe-some shot: Gwinnett defenseman Jon Awe set the record for the hardest shot in the ECHL All-Star Game in Boise last week at 102.2 miles per hour, shattering the old mark by almost 3 mph.
But Awe wasn’t through. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound blueliner later set a record by netting his 17th power-play goal of the season. Awe leads ECHL defensemen with 20 goals overall and 43 points in 36 games.
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League honors: Texas forward Marco Rosa is ECHL Player of the Week with six goals and eight points in four games. Toledo’s Mike Brodeur is ECHL Goaltender of the Week after going 3-0-0 with two shutouts, including one over the Chiefs on Sunday.