By Matt Mackinder
And the player advancements continue for the Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks.
Rookie forward Mike Palasics will have a chance to play in the NAHL next season, having recently signed a tender with the powerhouse Topeka RoadRunners.
For Palasics, he said it was simply a case of seeing that hard work means results.
“The opportunity came after a weekend home series against Queen City when Coach Bob (Jacobson) came up to me at practice the following week saying Topeka called and asked about me,” explained Palasics. “At that point, I didn't know much about the team, but after talking to (Topeka scout) Anthony Palumbo about the organization and what he was offering, I was ecstatic.”
Palasics also said he’s a bit awe-struck about having the potential to be a part of the RoadRunners’ organization, but also realizes his game fits in with the style Topeka coach Scott Langer teaches.
”I've heard nothing but good things about the Topeka organization,” said Palasics, an 18-year-old from Parma, Ohio. “After looking into the team some more, I've heard they're usually a top contender in the league every year, which is awesome, and that players get tons of looks from many different schools, including Division I. Coach Langer has a good reputation for moving kids on to the collegiate level. I got the chance to meet him at the Troy showcase and he seemed like a well-respected coach.”
And while Palasics knows a tender doesn’t guarantee a roster spot for next season, he admitted he wouldn’t have even been approached with a tender offer had it not been for this season with the Jr. Lumberjacks.
”This year in Cleveland has prepared me well to make the jump to the NA,” Palasics said. “I learned a lot this year from not only Coach Bob and the rest of the coaching staff, but from my teammates as well. I gained a lot of experience from everyone involved on this team and I think their help has had a big impact on being the player that I have become.”
Palasics also knows the jump from the NA3HL to the NAHL is a big leap, but has aspirations to make the transition an easy one.
”I definitely need to keep moving my feet, get stronger, make better and quicker decisions with the puck and most of all, play like the player I know I can be,” Palasics said. “I got a chance to watch some of the NA prospect games up in Troy and I noticed the game speed is a lot quicker and physical than usual. It'll be an adjustment, but I believe I can make the transition to Topeka a positive one. It's an opportunity that I don't want to screw up.”
Before donning a Topeka uniform, however, Palasics and the East Division regular-season champion Jr. Lumberjacks want to finish the season strong and challenge for the NA3HL championship.
”Personally, I want to step up my game and play every game like it's my last coming into the end of the season,” said Palasics. “It's the most important and fun time of the season and I know that Coach Bob is going to be looking for everybody to step up their game and leave it all out on the ice. Our team expectations are to play like the team we know we can be – fast, physical and disciplined.
“I don't think that anything less than a championship will be a disappointment because we have come a long way from where we were at the beginning of the season, but anything less than a championship is not something we are working for.”