Yogen holds no hard feelings

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

Andrew Yogan is back at the John Labatt Centre tonight.

He won't be gun shy about being hit.

That feeling left the big Erie Otters forward in a hurry.

"The first time I was really skating again after the injury," he said, "was at the (United States) world junior team evaluation camp this summer. I felt a little nervous at the start of it but that passed.

"You just get back into it and play your game. That's all I've done."

But it's inevitable he'll think back to what happened to him in London last Feb. 13. On his first shift of that OHL tilt, he was clobbered into the boards by Knights forward Zac Rinaldo, bounced his face off the glass and suffered a season-ending concussion.

He missed the final 13 games, plus the playoffs.

Rinaldo was given a checking from behind major and he was suspended eight games.

Yogan holds no grudge.

"I learned from that," the 17-year-old said. "I learned to be more aware when I'm near the glass. From what I've heard, (Zac) is a great guy to be around off the ice.

"It would've been fun to play in the playoffs against London. But I had to make sure I was recovered."

He went to his hometown -- that famou s hockey hot bed Boca Raton, Fla. -- for rest and rehabilitation.

"There aren't that many hockey players down there," Yogan said. "It's pretty laid back."

He watched in partial agony as the club he started with last season, the Windsor Spitfires, won the Memorial Cup. The former roommate of late Spits captain Mickey Renaud was traded to Erie last November.

"It was tough," Yogan said, "but I was cheering those guys on to win it all and they got it done in Rimouski.

"At the end, I was happy for them."

And now, he's thrilled to be back in business trying to chase down the Spits.

Yogan has 11 goals and 24 points in 22 games so far. If he was on the Knights, he'd be leading the club in scoring.

"I've been playing on a line with Shawn Szydlowski and Tyler Hostetter, who got moved from D to play up front for us," he said.

Despite the time missed by injury, Yogan was ranked 10th among OHL skaters in the just-released NHL Central Scouting list of top draft prospects.

"I'm proud of that," he said. "You try not to worry about the draft, world juniors or anything like that but I worked hard to get back this year. I just want to produce and help this team anyway I can."

He has tried to provide a spark.

That's what his ex-teammate Michael Liambas wanted to accomplish when he belted Kitchener's Ben Fanelli into the end boards on Oct. 30.

Commissioner David Branch banned the burly veteran for the rest of the regular season, plus playoffs. The Otters haven't let go of Liambas' influence and personality easily.

"He brought so much energy into the room," Yogan said. "It's unfortunate what happened. Michael worked hard every day and it rubbed off on the other guys. We're looking for that again. It's been motivation for the rest of us to go out there and play hard every shift."

It could end in a hurry.

Not many understand that better than Yogan.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca


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