Nelson's MacLeod thirsting for more
Alex MacLeod’s taste of the East Coast Hockey League was a nice appetizer, but the power forward is looking to savour the main course.
The Nelson Minor Hockey graduate played in his first ECHL regular season games over the weekend with the South Carolina Stingrays after being called up from the Southern Professional Hockey League’s Columbus Cottonmouths.
“Yea, I was thrilled when I got the call, but was disappointed it didn’t last longer than the weekend,” MacLeod told the Star. “But the coach there was pleased with how I played and said if they weren’t getting guys back from the American [Hockey] League, he would have kept me.”
The 25-year-old MacLeod headed south in the fall in an attempt to crack the Stingrays’ roster for the 2012-13 season. A glut of players in the minors due to the NHL lockout made competition stiff and MacLeod was sent down to the SPHL’s Cottonmouths.
MacLeod scored six goals and added nine assists in his first 29 games in the American south prior to the weekend call-up. His gritty play again caught the eye of the Stingrays who signed him last week when injuries hammered the team’s forward crew.
MacLeod played in his first ECHL game on Saturday night against the Florida Everblades at the Stingrays home arena in South Charleston before 4,057 fans in a game the home side lost 2-0. MacLeod and the Stingrays bounced back on Sunday with a 4-2 win.
MacLeod said it was good to get into action at the next rung of pro hockey.
“Like any level of hockey, as you move up the pace increases,” he said. “The pace was faster, but wasn’t anything I wasn’t prepared for.”
In North American hockey’s hierarchy, the pecking order goes NHL, AHL, ECHL and then leagues like the SPHL. MacLeod said the strategy in the SPHL is typically a little different.
“The play in the league is extremely physical, there are lots of hard hits,” said MacLeod. “Though there are quite a few players with a lot of talent. So there is a good mix of skilled players and physical players.”
MacLeod is in his first professional hockey season. He played four years at Michigan Tech where he skated in 144 games and was named to the WCHA all-academic team.
Though times in the minors can be difficult, MacLeod is determined to see where his skills on the can take him.
Personally I just want to improve as a hockey player,” said MacLeod. “Whether that means staying here in Columbus for the rest of the season or getting an opportunity in the ECHL. If I get another opportunity, this time around I hope it’s a permanent spot.”
MacLeod was expected to be back in the Cottonmouths line-up this weekend.
MacLeod was replaced in the Cottonmouths’ line-up by army captain Biff McNally.
The Stingrays are affiliated with the NHL’s Boston Bruins.