Three years ago, Justin Short left his Indiana home to play junior hockey in Minnesota.
Once there, he admitted his maturity level wasn’t where it should have been, so Short came home and played his last three years of high school hockey for Hamilton Southeastern High School before the Queen City Steam drafted him last May.
This season, Short has been nothing short of a catalyst for Queen City, has led the team in scoring most of the year and currently has 19 goals and 40 points.
“I was definitely hoping to be up there in scoring, maybe top five, but to lead the team has been something totally unexpected,” said Short, a 19-year-old native of Fishers, Ind. “On past teams, even going as far back as Bantams and Squirts, I was one of the go-to guys. I thought it might be different here, but everything just kind of fell into place.”
Short also said his year of juniors at the age of 15 helped with the transition this year to the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL).
“That one season really helped a lot,” said Short. “I knew what was coming this year and could adjust quicker to the speed and physicality of juniors. I had that in high school, but juniors is a whole other level.”
With the Steam, having a coach like Don Biggs, who played many years of pro hockey and has a son, Tyler, who will most likely be a first round pick in June’s NHL draft, Short can count on him for advice and overall development as a player and a person.
“My coach in high school knew Biggsy and him and I had actually been in touch for a couple years through email,” explained Short. “I knew it would be a good experience coming to Queen City and it’s definitely been an exciting year. It’s a team that is close to home and was really my best option after graduating high school.”
Playing in the NA3HL has its perks as the league gets scouted by a wide variety of colleges and higher-level junior leagues - a situation Short was aware of coming into the season.
“Being affiliated with the NAHL definitely helps,” said Short. “And we might not get many scouts here in Cincinnati, but going to places like Chicago, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, you’re always being watched.”
And with a big-number year going into this weekend’s two-game set at Metro, Short has already started looking ahead to his plans for the 2011-12 season.
“Biggsy has helped develop my game so much this season and I’m hoping next year I’ll either be in the NAHL or going to school,” said Short. “If I don’t make an NAHL team, I’d have no problems coming back here for another season.
“You really can’t go wrong with any of those options.”
BATTLE CREEK JR. REVOLUTION: Kiryl Kylakoy scored his first goal in nine games last Sunday at Quad City.
CHICAGO HITMEN: Eric Szafranski has assists in four of his last five games, including one in his last three straight contests.
CLEVELAND JR. LUMBERJACKS: Mike Parda leads the NA3HL with a .932 save percentage, is second with a 2.50 goals-against average, is tied for most shutouts with two and ranks fifth in wins with 13.
FLINT JR. GENERALS: Goalie Peter Emery beat Metro twice last weekend, including an 18-save shutout Saturday night at home.
METRO JETS: Jets captain Morgan James netted his first goal of the season Sunday afternoon against Flint.
MICHIGAN MOUNTAIN CATS: Ryan Rotondi potted his tenth goal of the season last Saturday night in Cleveland. He’s the fourth player in double-digit goal scoring for the Mountain Cats.
PEORIA MUSTANGS: Evan Jones, Peoria’s top-scoring defenseman, has points in three of his last five games.
PITTSBURGH JR. PENGUINS: Jayson Angus added to his NA3HL-leading 39 goals with a pair last Sunday in Chicago. He also has nine points over his last five games (five goals, four assists).
QUAD CITY JR. FLAMES: The Jr. Flames have scored more than a quarter of their goals (153) on the power play (39) for a 25.4 percent efficiency.
QUEEN CITY STEAM: Zach Olson leads all league blueliners with 38 points (nine goals, 29 assists).
ST. LOUIS JR. BLUES: Patrick Gregory has three goals and three assists in five games since returning to St. Louis from the NAHL.
TOLEDO CHEROKEE: Cody Beck recorded his third multi-goal game of the year with a two-goal outing last Sunday in Queen City.
FORMER STEAM SNIPER COMMITS TO NIAGARA
Chris Lochner, a former Queen City forward who was tops on the team and second in the NA3HL with 45 goals and 85 points back in 2008-09, has committed to Niagara University (Atlantic Hockey) for this fall.
Lochner, a 21-year-old from Alpharetta, Ga., currently with the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the United States Hockey League, is fifth on the squad with 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) this year with no penalty minutes.
He spent last year in the Ontario Junior Hockey League with the Villanova Knights, again recording 85 points on 45 goals and 40 assists.