Jim Alexander, The Press Enterprise
David Walker, Greg Hogeboom and Peter Lenes represented the hometown Ontario Reign in Wednesday night's ECHL All-Star Game, won by the visiting American Conference 10-9 in a shootout at Citizens Business Bank Arena.
It was a different experience, to be sure. Hockey without hitting is kind of surreal for guys who spend the rest of the time pounding the bejabbers out of each other.
"I guess it's like playing hockey in Europe," quipped Walker, a 30-year-old defenseman.
Walker, who has four goals in 38 games this season, scored one Wednesday night. So did Lenes, who has 11 in 39 games and felt like he had a chance for another in the late stages of the five-minute overtime that preceded the shootout. Lenes smacked his stick on the ice in frustration as he came off from his final shift.
"I went the wrong way on one, and that could have been the overtime goal," he said. "But I can't be too mad about it. It's a fun experience. You always want to win, but in the end it's about having fun and meeting new people and getting exposure for everyone."
The experience for the hometown guys was a little different, since they were the only ones not staying in the hotel. But the activities leading up to the game, including Tuesday night's skills competition and Wednesday's ECHL Hall of Fame luncheon, kept them busy.
"It's not your typical pregame routine, looking at video, breaking down other teams' systems and stuff," Walker said. "It's more just a relaxing day. But it was nice to look around the room and see 19 or 20 new faces we don't see every day. We've battled for 40 games now, and we got a little break. New guys, new faces."
Hogeboom, who had four of the Nationals' 38 shots in the game, said he was just happy to watch some of the more skilled players perform.
"I'm not really the skills competition or All-Star Game type," he said "I'm more of a regular season player. It was great to see some of the guys who have All-Star skill. The experience has been a very good one."
But the three represented their organization well, and the Reign put on a good show in its first experience hosting an All-Star Game.
"We have a lot of respect for our organization and our team, and we didn't want to embarrass ourselves or the organization," Walker said. "Lenes being a fan favorite, it was nice for him to get a goal and keep the fans happy.
"The organization in Ontario, they went (over) and above. They treated us first-class."