By GEORGE ALFANO
Special to The Press-Enterprise
ONTARIO - Ontario Reign left winger Peter Lenes can be hard to see on the ice.
One reason is that Lenes, a rookie professional from the University of Vermont, stands only 5-foot-4. Another reason is that Lenes has great speed and might seem like a blur on the ice.
One place Lenes can be seen is on the score sheet. Going into today's 7 p.m. game against Bakersfield at Citizens Business Bank Arena, he has 11 goals and seven assists in 26 games, with a pair of two-goal games.
Story continues below Lenes has taken advantage of an opportunity presented when several Reign players were promoted to Manchester, the Kings' American Hockey League affiliate. Manchester has been affected by injuries, and Jon Rheault, Geoff Walker, and Dwight King have moved from the Reign to the Monarchs.
"Peter has always worked hard and has had to earn his ice time," said Reign coach Karl Taylor. "Once he got his ice time, he has had scoring opportunities."
Lenes was born in Shelburne, Vt., and had visited the state's university many times when he was young. His father, Helmut, was a professional mountain climber who owned a business called Climb High in Vermont and Austria. His mother, Joan, is a member of the Vermont state legislature.
Lenes played one year of junior hockey for Sioux City, S.D., in the United States Hockey League before returning home to play for Vermont.
"Some colleges weren't interested because of my size, but they were very high on me and I think they liked the idea of having a Vermont kid," said Lenes, who scored 46 goals during his four-year career with the Catamounts. "I wanted to show that I could play and wasn't there just because I was from Vermont."
Rheault, who scored 19 goals during the regular season and added four in the playoffs for the Reign last season, knew Lenes well and had to do a good marketing job for his friend.
"Do you want to know the truth?" Taylor said. "I didn't want to sign him because I wasn't crazy about having smaller players. Jon (Rheault) did a really good sales job."
In addition to his impact on the offense, Lenes has also become very popular with the fans at Citizen's Business Bank Arena. When Lenes advances the puck, fans chant, "Pe-tee."
Dan Taylor, 37, of Grand Terrace, is a Lenes fan and got his jersey embroidered with Lenes' number 3 last week.
"He is the most energetic player on the ice," he said. Annie Bennett, a state employee who lives in Chino, is an even bigger fan. She was the successful auction bidder for a jersey Lenes wore in a game this year. How much did she pay?
"Too much," Bennett said with a laugh, adding that the auction raised money for a local animal shelter. Lenes sat with Bennett and her family at a booster club dinner early in the season, and she also met the player's family.
Bennett, a Boston Bruins fan, made a hand-written sign that said "Speedy Pete." This progressed to having letters held by more than 10 people in Section 106 which spells out, "Unleash the Beast."
"He kind of grew on us -- he's fast and he's a hustler," said Bennett. "He shows that size doesn't matter."