By MIKE MASTOVICH
Doug Andress finally broke the ice in what has been one of the most quiet summers for the Johnstown Chiefs.
The versatile defenseman signed a contract Monday and became the Chiefs’ first signing this offseason.
“Doug was called up to Springfield last year and was the first star of the game,” said Ryan Belec, new Chiefs vice president of hockey operations and assistant to Tampa Bay Lightning GM Jay Feaster. “He impressed a lot of people on that end.
“As is the case throughout our system, we want to find players who will help us win hockey games in Johnstown and have potential to be recall players for Springfield.”
In 64 games with the Chiefs last season, Andress had six goals and 37 points.
The 27-year-old Ohio State product appeared in three AHL games with Springfield, scoring a goal, and played one game with the AHL’s Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights.
“He is strong on the power play,” Chiefs coach Frank Anzalone said. “He enjoys playing in Johnstown. He’s going into his third pro season, and with the interest in him shown by Tampa Bay and Springfield, we’re expecting him to perform at a high level.”
Chiefs GM Toby O’Brien traded for Andress in 2004-05, when O’Brien was Johnstown’s coach. “I specified that I wanted Doug Andress because I loved the way he played when I watched him as an opposing coach,” O’Brien said. “Doug came to Johnstown with a great attitude, and he worked hard for the team, his teammates and his coach.”
Traditionally, the Chiefs have announced as many as six or eight player signings from mid-July through September.
The process has changed under the Lightning’s direction – an indication that the Chiefs’ lineup might be heavy with Tampa or Springfield contract players.
Speculation has as many as 10 or 12 contract players headed to Johnstown from the parent club. That translates into a younger, perhaps more skilled team with few veterans and limited experience.
“Over the next two weeks to a month we’ll see some movement in the player personnel area,” Belec said.
The Lightning’s upcoming rookie camp in Traverse City, Mich., will impact Johnstown’s roster.
“We have several players attending our rookie camp who could end up in a Chiefs’ uniform,” Belec said. “That will be a big camp as far as the Johnstown Chiefs are concerned.”
Notes: The Chiefs announced a schedule change involving a road game in Reading that now will be played on Nov. 12 instead of Jan. 26. A conflict with a NBA game at Charlotte Bobcats Arena, home of the ECHL’s Charlotte Checkers, affected several ECHL dates in various cities.