The cavalry is on the way!!

By Richard A. Plisco
The glory years conjur up names like Coffey, Murphy, and Samuelsson. Regal defenseman, who in thier prime brought Lord Stanley to the Steel City with graceful stick-handling, pin-point passes, and viscious face-washes. One instant they held the prestigious Cup above thier heads and fans anxiously dreamt of a dynasty in the making, the next instant they were gone. Replaced by mediocre journeyman defenders that could barely skate let alone clear the crease. Several years whisked by with faint glimmers of hope that soon turned to bitter disappointment. All that is about to finally change.

Enter the new guard. An exciting generation of blueline talent that was carefully homegrown to fill the skates of heroes past. They have honed thier craft in the recesses of the minor leagues and are now prepared to unleash thier fury on the unsuspecting NHL.
Meet the two-way phenom Andrew Ference, already battle tested in the war zone that is the NHL playoffs. Behold the brick wall that is Josef Melichar. Keep your eyes fixed on the shifty playmaking Chris Kelleher.

Andrew Ference has not let the franchise down since the 5’10” 190lbs. Edmonton native was drafted in 1997. Although short, he is solid and absorbs a lot of punishment. He exhibits enormous poise with the puck and is not afraid to put a shot on net. He plays an in your face style that continually has bigger and stronger opponents pounding him into the corners and he never loses balance or control. He is physical, mobile, and above all else dependable. Andrew has produced at every level and in every situation. He is a veritable lock for a job on the Penguins roster next season and no doubt for years to come.

Josef Melichar is 6’3″ and 215lbs. of immovable object. Josef was an anchor for the Wilkes-Barre club during thier run at the AHL’s Calder Cup. He was patient and smart. He utilized his powerful frame well and kept the opposition adequately at bay. The sturdy Czech saw limited ice with the big squad, but posted respectable numbers in those rare appearances. He is talented enough and conscientious in his own zone. He will provide the size that has been lacking on the Pens blueline, and a nasty streak that will make the enemy think twice.

Chris Kelleher surprised himself as much as he did the critics and media. The Massachusets born defender stands at a decent 6’1″ and 210lbs. Although he demonstrated a penchant for scoring while at Boston University, no one would have predicted the offensive onslaught he wreaked during the AHL playoff run. Chris tallied 25 points in only 21 tilts. More amazing is that he only managed 19 points during 66 regular season contests. Kelleher, like many of the Wilkes-Barre defenseman really had little choice. All-star John Slaney, who provided the bulk of the Baby Pens rear attack, was traded away earlier. Someone was needed to step up…Kelleher answered the call. That ability to thrive under pressure and the resulting contributions have ear-marked Chris for big league duty.

These three young men are the future. They bring to mind those not-to-distant memories of Stanley Cup championships. They stir thoughts of #’s 77, 55, and 5. Three men have arrived that may finally put the ghosts to rest and restore the cities faith in what was once a regal blueline. A return to the glory years.
The cavalry had arrived.