LOWELL, Mass. Friday was a night of firsts for Lock Monsters right wing Mark Lawrence, but its actually seconds that hes really after.
Second chances, that is.
Lawrence, a 26-year-old Ontario native, scored the first goal in Lock Monsters history 4:18 into Fridays 5-4 win over Portland his first of two on the night. Three-and-a-half minutes earlier hed been the first one to test out the home penalty box when he got caught holding a Pirate stick.
For Lawrence, who suited up for two games with the New York Islanders last year after playing 13 for the Dallas Stars in 1995-96, this could be a key stint for him. And the start couldnt have been scripted better.
"I was a little nervous, going into a different league," he said afterward. "It was real nice to get that first one down."
Lawrence knows how to score he was the third-leading scorer for the Utah Grizzlies of the IHL last year (36-2864 in 80 games). But to earn his ticket to Long Island, he knows he needs to improve his skating."
"He needs to be consistent," Lock Monsters coach Frank Anzalone said. "And be moving all the time, be good defensively. But hes a veteran guy, and hes learning some new things from us. Hes got hands of gold."
"I think Ive got to work on my skating and I think Franks the guy to do it," Lawrence said.
The sight was a hockey general managers dream: At 2 p.m. Friday, the line outside the Tsongas Arena box office a couple hundred deep in a chilly drizzle curled all the way down the steps and around the front of the building.
Unfortunately, there wasnt a hockey fan among them: The youths were in line to purchase tickets to the alternative group Korn, which went on sale Friday afternoon for a show here in November.
Fridays game, incidentally, was technically a sell-out the crowd was announced at 6,492. But while it sold out, it sold out very late and struggled to do so, and rows of empty seats were visible.
General manager Tom Rowe has said hed like to average around 4,100 or 4,200 fans per game, and admitted not selling out opening night would be a minor setback. Setback averted.
From the How-the-AHL-Has-Changed Dept.: When Lock Monsters defenseman Dean Malkoc broke into the pros with Utica of the AHL in 1991 their old arena was considered a nice one, by league standards.
Now, with the AHL swelled to 19 teams Hampton Roads, Va., and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pa., will make it 21 next year Tsongas, even at 6,500 seats, is a relatively small dwelling. The league is expanding south, and arenas like Cincinnati Gardens, the CoreStates Spectrum in Philadelphia, and Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., all seat more than 10,000.
This is not your fathers AHL.
"In Utica, they had a fairly nice rink, but it was an older rink," said Malkoc, who spent the last two seasons with the Bruins. "This is just a beautiful facility the locker room, stands, everything is brand new. Its going to be a pleasure to play here."
Not surprisingly, Malkoc found himself in the middle of the first full-blown fight in Lock Monsters history, tangling with Portlands Mark Major after a Pirates goal made it 5-4 late in the third period.
Notes of note
Derek Massei of Nashua was one of five youths who accompanied the Lock Monsters starters onto the ice prior to Fridays game. Massei, who skates for a Nashua Youth Hockey League Mite team, and the others were chosen randomly for the honor.
While Lock Monsters coach Frank Anzalone was coaching his first AHL game in eight years Friday night (he guided the Newmarket Saints to a 26-45-9 record in 1990-91), first-year Pirates coach Mark Kumpel stepped into some big shoes. Former coach Barry Trotz is now coaching the NHLs Nashville Predators, while the man he replaced Bryan Trottier is now an assistant with the Colorado Avalanche.