October 1, 2010 - Central Hockey League (CHL) - Evansville IceMen
EVANSVILLE, IN.--- With their first-ever training camp as a member of the newly-expanded 18-teams Central Hockey League a scant few days henceforth, the IceMen have cometh to Evansville for the soon-to-come 2010-11 pro hockey season. Subscribing to the adage of saving the best for last, the IceMen organization has virtually applied the finishing touches on its training camp roster with the signings of three top-flight, top-drawer veteran league all-star status performers.
On this date, General Manager/Head Coach Rich Kromm has announced that defenseman MARIO LAROCQUE, right wing JOHN DIPACE and center NICKLAS LINDBERG have assented to contract terms with each standout sparkplug signing one-year pacts with the Evansville club. Adhering to club policy, terms of the deals were not disclosed. Both Larocque and DiPace represent yet two more players from the 2009-10 IHL Huber Trophy Regular Season Champions Muskegon Lumberjacks to join the IceMen aggregation nation for the new campaign.
LAROCQUE, 32, will be embarking on his 13th pro season overall but his first-ever in the Central Hockey League. The former #1 draft choice of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft brings both NHL playing experience as well as a prominent portfolio of minor pro stardom expressly to augment the CHL fledgling Evansville lineup.
The towering 6-5, 225lb left-hand shooting defensive bulwark has combined sharp, superior offensive skills with an intimidating defensive-minded on-ice demeanor throughout his professional career. In the 2009-10 season, as a mid-season acquisition by the championship Muskegon team, the Montreal PQ native made a major contribution to the team's ultimate fate and fortunes, registering a proficient 24-points in 31-games on 5-goals, 19-assists with 57-PIM and brilliant +18 rating. Despite arriving somewhat later on the season's scene, he, nevertheless, completed the campaign in the top 15 in IHL league-wide scoring among defensemen while delivering 2-PPG and 8-PPA. His Muskegon debut was an auspicious one, indeed, as he connected on the late, dramatic TBG/GWG in the third period to sever a 1-1 deadlock in Dayton to catapult his new team into the victory circle by the final result of 3-1.
GM/Coach Kromm is thrilled to have Larocque returning as "The Rock" of his blue line brigade. "We are obviously pleased that Mario is joining us here in Evansville. He has enjoyed a tremendous pro career and his veteran leadership as well as his ability to generate offense from the defense position will be key components to our club this year. He is big and strong and can play in all situations. We look for Mario to be a real guiding force defensively and a major force offensively for us this season."
Evansville's newest rearguard attained his best pro season in 2006-07 when he helped spark the Fort Wayne Komets to the UHL Tarry Cup crown, emblematic of regular season supremacy. Playing in all 76-games, he engineered 67-points, topping all league defensemen in goal-cannoneering with 27,finishing 16th overall in league-wide scoring with those 67-points, second best among all UHL defensemen overall in the latter department. In that same campaign, he led all defensemen with 17-PPG and 4-GWG, recording a masterful +23 rating, 231-PIM and a berth on the UHL Second All-Star Team. His pro career numbers read; 724-games; 102-goals, 181-assists, 283-points and 2,301-PIM.
DIPACE, 28, (dih-PACE) will be broaching his eighth pro season after spending the previous two campaigns under the employ of Muskegon. The 5-11, 190lb native of the Detroit suburb of Clinton Township, MI will be commencing his second full season under the auspices of Coach Kromm. A standout pro veteran of nearly 500-career games, the versatile forward has been one of the top-scoring point-architects in the IHL and UHL throughout his tenure in the play for pay pros. In 2009-10, he enjoyed an immensely prolific season despite missing 18-games due to a sports hernia injury. Nevertheless, he still finished 13th in IHL scoring with 64-points in 58-games on 25-goals, 39-assists with 87-PIM and brilliant, team-best +31 rating, winning the Team Best Plus Player Award. His +31 rating also ranked a lofty #3 in the entire IHL. Before being felled with injury, DiPace was actually leading the IHL in point-productivity and was rated the league's top plus player.
His 9-PPG tied were second most for the Lumberjacks and his 2-SHG tied for the club leadership; his 5-GWG were third most for the club. Included in his overall scoring output last season were two 2-goal games, one 4-assist outing, one 5-point performance and two 4-point efforts. Moreover, he assembled two 8-game scoring streaks; 8(7-10-17) and 8(7-5-12). His 5-game goal streak 5(5-7-12) was second best for Muskegon last year.
Coach Kromm knows what his star right wing will bring to his first Evansville edition. "Johnny is a proven scorer at this pro level. He has exceptional offensive ability and can score playing at any of the three forward positions. He has versatility at the forward position, does not back down in any situation and can play in every situation. We look for him to continue to be a top scoring threat for our club moving forward this season."
DiPace was Muskegon's principal acquisition in a major five-player trade with the Flint Generals back on 2/18/09. In 2008-09, he ranked a scintillating sixth in the IHL scoring parade cavalcade with 74(37-45-82), accruing 240-PIM and +12 rating. His total goals, assists and points that season represented single season career-highs. His pro career numbers are: 487-games; 168-goals, 227-assists, 395-points along with 1,265-PIM.
LINDBERG, 30, is commencing his eighth pro season and his second career appearance in the CHL. For the past two seasons, the Stockholm, Sweden import has been a shining star in the IHL with the Port Huron Icehawks. In each of those past two seasons, he has finished in the top 10 in league-wide scoring prowess. From the team perspective, the 5-11, 190lb centerman has finished second and third respectively in Icehawks point production.
Last season, in 2009-10, he finished 9th in league scoring with 67-points on 18-goals and team-best 49-assists, ranking league-wide fifth overall in the latter playmaking category. He also attained a stellar +10 rating with his 19-PPA topping Port Huron and ranking him fifth best in the IHL overall. He also connected on 4-PPG and 3-GWG while tying for the IHL leadership in FG (first goals) with 10.
In 2008-09, Lindberg was even better, finishing seventh in IHL scoring with 81-points in 75-games on 29-goals, 52-assists. He was second on the team in PPA with 18 while carding an excellent +15 rating. His numbers included 6-PPG, 2-SHG, 4-FG.
In the last two seasons, Lindberg has averaged virtually a point a game with 148-points in 151-games. This accomplishment has not escaped Coach Kromm's watchful eye. "In Muskegon, we saw Nick a lot as member of the opposition and we saw him do some outstanding things against us. So it will be a real positive to have him on our side for a change here with the IceMen. He is highly-skilled offensively and a superb playmaker as his 101-assists the past two seasons would reflect. Nick is strong on the power play and the penalty kill and we expect him to continue to be a top player; only this time on our side of the ice."
This is Lindberg's second tour of duty in the CHL as he previously saw significant star-studded service with since-extinct Corpus Christi in 2006-07 and 2007-08, also averaging nearly a point a game. He actually launched his pro career in the U.S. in the ECHL where he performed for two years with Pensacola. Lindberg's pro career numbers read; 402-games; 111-goals, 201-assists, 312-points.
The total number of pro career games' experience of the IceMen's latest three signees total 1,594 games.
Today's signings of defenseman MARIO LAROCQUE, right wing JOHN DIPACE and center NICKLAS LINDBERG bring to 19 the total number of players presently under contract to Evansville for the 2010-11 CHL season. Previously, the IceMen announced the signings of goaltenders MATT LUNDIN,
DAVID WILSON; defensemen JOE GRIMALDI, JORDAN LITTLE, JAKE PENCE, NICK SCHNEIDER, CLAY THORING; centers BRIAN BICEK, JEFF NELSON, DAMIAN SURMA left wings JESSE BIDUKE, MARK CODY; right wings CHRIS CAMPANALE, BO CHEESMAN, ANDREW GIBBONS, ROBB ROSS.