Change is good for Goren

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:46 AM ET

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Were it not for a coaching change, Lee Goren isn't sure what path his hockey career might have taken.

What the 27-year-old Winnipegger knows is Mike Sullivan was his saving grace and his third season as a pro was a turning point.

These days, Goren is a power forward in his hometown with the Manitoba Moose.

When the American Hockey League North Division final begins tonight, Goren will need to be one of the keys if the Moose are to knock off the top-ranked Rochester Americans.

Back in the fall of 2002, Goren appeared headed for the abyss. Another guy who didn't reach his potential.

Enter Sullivan, who replaced Bill Armstrong as the head coach of the Providence Bruins, the primary affiliate of the Boston franchise that selected Goren in the third round (63rd overall) in the 1997 NHL entry draft.

SURPRISED

"Sully was a guy who just gave me a bunch of confidence," Goren said in a recent interview. "I had been sent down from Boston and he pulled me into his office and told me he thought I was a pretty good player. The year before, I had 11 goals and he told me right to my face that 'anything less than 30 will be a disappointment from you.' I was completely surprised.

"I said 'are you crazy?' "

In the end, Sullivan was anything but. Goren set professional highs with 32 goals, 69 points and 106 penalty minutes in 65 games with Providence before finishing the season with the parent club, where he appeared in five Stanley Cup playoff games against the New Jersey Devils.

So what was the problem with Armstrong?

"When I heard (Armstrong) wasn't coming back, it was probably one of the happiest times of my hockey career," said Goren, who tied his high for pro goals this season and had 62 points. "He was a guy who wanted me to fight every night and be an intimidating force. You know what, I'm the kind of guy who's going to do that when the time is right. I try to take care of the guys I play with.

"I had just scored 34 goals in my senior year in college (with the UND Fighting Sioux) and I knew I had to play more physical and to be more consistent. For him to want me to fight, fight, fight was just disheartening. He wanted us to play like robots, there were no instincts anymore and it took the fun out of it. Going to Sullivan was a complete 180."

Clearly Goren is having the most fun since then as a member of the Moose.

Returning to his hometown has been a great move for Goren, who emerged as a key member of the leadership core.

Goren made his presence felt in the opening-round series against the St. John's Maple Leafs, firing a team-high five goals and adding an assist to tie linemate Jeff Heerema for the team's points lead.

More importantly, Goren went nose-to-nose with Maple Leafs captain Marc Moro, raising his game another notch in the post-season.

"That's where players make their careers really and make a name for themselves," said Moose goalie Wade Flaherty. "He's not the only one, but we've got guys taking a lot of punishment in front of their net. (Goren) has done a great job."

INJURY UPDATE: Moose sniper Jason King didn't travel with his teammates yesterday after suffering symptoms from post-concussion syndrome.

However, the Americans are expected to get some help back in the form of forwards Chris Thorburn (shoulder) and Michael Ryan (knee).

The Americans also signed forward Clarke MacArthur, who won WJHC gold this year, to an amateur tryout offer this week.


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