After three shortened seasons in Washington, defenseman Jack Hillen was traded to...
Bobby Shea: Stability in Transience (Part Two)
Rookie defenseman Bobby Shea in his first professional playoff game against the Greenville Road Warriors. Photo courtesy of Candice Monhollan.
This is the second installment of a two-part article.
The trust that defenseman Bobby Shea put into his new coach would be tested not only by the pains of transition, but also by experimentation. Having never played the position, Shea became a forward at the beginning of his sophomore season, his first under former Miami RedHawk assistant coach Chris Bergeron.
At 5 feet 11 inches and 195 pounds, Shea brought grit to the offense. Though the experiment was short-lived due to a greater need on the back end, it would not stop him from getting the second-most penalty minutes on the team (63).
The move gave him a new perspective on the game.
“You can always look at your breakouts and say, ‘Ok, the forwards are gonna be here,’ but once you’re in that position, you get more of a feel of what that position is like,” said Shea.
Searching for more ways to bolster his team, Shea spent the summer in Ohio. Though the Bowling Green campus is not far from his Harrison Township, Mich. home, the decision represented his devotion to his coach’s mentality.
“That doesn’t happen with everybody,” said Bergeron, “Sometimes it’s too hard to go into the weight room and lift and it’s too hard to go to the track and run, but he was always willing to do that and make himself better, knowing that he wanted to be the best player he could be.”
Though the Falcons would struggle in the regular season, there would soon be reward. The eleventh-place team went through Northern Michigan and first-place Ferris State to reach the 2012 CCHA semifinals for the first time since the 2000-01 season. They would ultimately fall to Michigan in double overtime.
Individually, Shea was moving up the roster. The jump from seven to nine points between his sophomore and junior years is significant mostly in terms of balance. Four of the defenseman’s nine points in the 2011-12 season were goals while he had only scored one the previous year.
Knowing this would be his last season in the orange and brown, Shea worked to go out on a high. He stayed on campus again last summer. He, defenseman Ryan Peltoma and goalie Andrew Hammond decided to live together.
While maintaining his aggressive play (taking first in both team penalties and PIMs in both his junior and senior years), Shea added to both his defensive and offensive stats.
In 40 games, the defenseman earned 20 points (4g, 16a), was a +17 and blocked 50 shots. It tied him for fifth in CCHA defenseman scoring, one of two seniors in the top 10. In conference assists, he tied for 22nd, with only three other defensemen ranked above him.
Others noticed. In his final year, Shea was named to the All-CCHA Second team and nominated as a finalist for the conference’s top Defensive Defenseman award.
Said Bergeron, “Did I see that happening at the beginning of the year? No. Does it totally blow me out of the water? No.”
A less-than royal rookie
Despite the collegiate recognition, Shea is just a rookie in Reading, Penn.
He and fellow first-year Dominic Jalbert are last on the list when it comes to the Royals’ traveling accommodations. When there aren’t enough bunks on the bus, the two sleep on the floor.
“That’s probably the worst thing,” said Shea with a smile, “Me and Jalbert are cuddled up there.”
As a defensive pair they are making mistakes and memories together. In the opening game of the ECHL’s Eastern Conference Finals, Jalbert tied the game late and Shea won it in double overtime. It was redemption for both, with Shea on the ice for the first Cincinnati Cyclones goal and Jalbert’s failed attempt at a dump-in bouncing off Alex Berry’s skate and into a vacant net.
“Bobby and I are learning everyday and we like to play with each other. We’re just enjoying every moment and we wanna play our best to help the team,” said Jalbert, a former University of Ottawa Gee-Gee.
With the ever-changing roster of an ECHL team, coach Larry Courville is happy to see his acquisitions excel. The departures of defensemen Denny Urban and Adam Comrie (ECHL All-Star and All-ECHL Second Team picks, respectively), left Courville with big shoes to fill.
“It’s big. You lose a lot of guys through the year,” said the fourth-year coach, “You can’t replace a guy like Comrie or Urban offensively, but when they step up in a big game like this and get a goal apiece, it’s real nice.”
Shea knows he has more work to do. The Royals have at least two more games against the second-seeded Cyclones before they can think about the Kelly Cup Finals.
After Friday’s postgame celebration and Justin Bieber’s “Beauty and a Beat” had faded in the locker room, Shea was asked where he would put the puck marking the biggest goal of his career so far.
“Probably send it to my dad. He’ll probably want it.”