BY MIKE MASTOVICH
Derek Booth spent enough time skating against Dmitri Tarabrin to know the veteran forward belonged on his United Hockey League team.
Booth coaches the expansion Bloomington (Ill.) Prairie Thunder. Tarabrin, who broke the ECHL’s Johnstown Chiefs’ career record by playing in his 427th regular-season game with the team last season, signed a deal with the Prairie Thunder.
“One big reason we signed Dmitri is I played against him when I was in Toledo and Peoria,” said Booth, who won a Riley Cup as a Toledo player. “He’s a competitor. He’s feisty on the ice. He can put points on the board. He’s a complete package for us. We’re very excited to have him signed in Bloomington.”
Last season, few expected Tarabrin to earn a Chiefs’ roster spot in a training camp filled with contract players. He stuck and gradually broke into the lineup. Tarabrin scored career highs with 21 goals and 50 points in 62 games.
This year, Johnstown’s camp will include mostly Tampa/Springfield contract players. Veterans such as Tarabrin, who turned 30 this month, will have an even more difficult time making the club.
Booth has signed 23 players but indicated Tarabrin is almost a lock to make a UHL team that will play in the new U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
“We’re expecting big things out of Dmitri,” Booth said.
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Piro joins FireAntz: Bishop McCort High School graduate and former Chiefs forward Josh Piro signed a contract with the Fayetteville FireAntz in the Southern Professional Hockey League.
A fifth-year pro, Piro will play under Fayetteville coach John Marks, who formerly led the Greenville Grrrowl in the ECHL and won championships with two ECHL teams.
“John Marks is a great coach,” Piro said. “He knows how to put teams together. He’s won two championships. I’m excited to play for a coach like that.”
Piro had three goals and nine points last season with Elmira in the UHL. He played parts of two seasons with the Chiefs, posting two goals and six points in 2003-04.
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Chiefs re-sign Wallace: The Chiefs announced the signing of defenseman Ben Wallace on Wednesday.
The London, Ontario, native played in 58 regular-season games last season and had 10 assists.
“Ben is a very big addition to our team,” Chiefs coach Frank Anzalone said. “He plays a very solid, stay-at-home game. Last year he learned the league. This year he’ll hopefully be one of the best defensive defensemen in our division.”
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Single-game tickets on sale: Single-game tickets to the Chiefs’ 36 home dates go on sale Monday at 10 a.m. at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena Box Office.
Tickets for the Oct. 14 preseason game against Wheeling at the War Memorial will cost $8.