Evgeny Kuznetsov tossed a quick backhand over to the streaking Alexander Ovechkin....
Bobby Shea: Stability in Transience (Part One)
After playing just four regular season games, defenseman Bobby Shea has been a consistent presence in the Reading Royals’ Kelly Cup run. Photo courtesy of Candice Monhollan.
This is the first installment of a two-part article.
“Willingness on a daily basis.”
It’s what coach Chris Bergeron has preached since arriving at Bowling Green State University in 2010. Three years later, it was how he described his senior defenseman Bobby Shea.
But the former Falcon is not one to dwell on his own talents. Now a rookie with the ECHL’s Reading Royals, Shea recently provided one of the most exciting moments of the team’s current playoff run. The Michigan native scored the game-winning goal in double overtime Friday night against Eastern Conference Final opponents, the Cincinnati Cyclones.
“I was just relieved ‘cause I owed the team a goal after that first [Cyclones goal]. I was happy,” said Shea after the game.
After only getting two assists in his first 16 professional games, he scored a game-tying goal in Sunday’s overtime win.
“It’s been kind of a roller coaster, there have been ups and downs on the ice,” Shea said of the adjustment from the NCAA to the ECHL, “To come to a first-place team and I have a chance to win the Kelly Cup, it’s awesome. I don’t think I’d want anything different after college.”
After being named to the All-CCHA Second team and nominated as a finalist for the conference’s top Defensive Defenseman award, Shea decided to bring his talent east. With only four games left in the regular season, he entered the Royals lineup.
“I was in Evansville and just started,” said Shea.
Change in Bowling Green
More than four years ago, Shea was attracted to the Bowling Green Falcons by then-coach Scott Paluch. But when he arrived on campus, Dennis Williams—named interim coach after Paluch’s departure before the 2009-10 season—greeted him. After playing only 16 games due to academic ineligibility, he and nine other freshmen were told to learn yet another name and a new system.
“His mindset was that there were no excuses and to be the best—you know it sounds corny, but to be a champion every day,” the defenseman said of Bergeron’s brand of hockey.
The program was in need of a “champion” mentality. In the five years before Shea’s freshman season, the Falcons placed last in the CCHA three times. At the end of March 2010, they had only five wins overall.
Though Bergeron brought 10 seasons of rebuilding experience from Miami University (Ohio), the team would not be an overnight Cinderella story. The transition not only meant more struggle (the Falcons won only eight conference games between the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons), but also cost the loyalty of those who sought stability. By the end of last season, nine players had voluntarily left and only four from the 2009 freshman class remained.
“We wanted to make a difference and get this program back to what it once was back in the ’80s and early ’90s,” said defenseman Ryan Peltoma of their decision to stay, “I think it was almost kind of a pride thing.”
Though classmates Ian Ruel and Max Grover were among those who would leave, it was with them that Shea decided to dedicate himself to the new system.
“I wasn’t gonna leave after my freshman year,” asserted the 22-year-old.