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Published: Wednesday, 3/9/2005

Storm seeks lift with big trade

BY DAN SAEVIG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Center Carl Mallette had 65 points in 55 Grrrowl games. Center Carl Mallette had 65 points in 55 Grrrowl games.
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The Storm and Greenville Grrrowl completed a seven-player trade yesterday that ranks as the biggest in the ECHL this season. It's also the largest in quality.

Toledo sent three of its top four scorers - captain and left wing Sam Paolini, right wing Tyler Knight and forward Maris Ziedins - along with defenseman Jason Jozsa to Greenville.

In return, the Storm gets center Carl Mallette - the second-leading scorer in the ECHL - winger Kevin Bergin and defenseman Joey Martin.

From Toledo's perspective, the deal was made to shake up a 31-22-4 club that has lost seven of its last 11. Despite its record, the Storm wouldn't qualify for the Kelly Cup playoffs if they were to begin today.

"This was an opportunity to address everything that we were looking for," Toledo coach Nick Vitucci said. "We get a No. 1 centerman and probably one of the best players in the entire league in Carl Mallette. In Kevin Bergin, we've got an up-and-down rugged winger who can produce offensively and is all heart. In Joey Martin we get a young, physical, hard-nosed defenseman."

Mallette (6-1, 194 pounds) had 24 goals and 41 assists in 55 games for 31-21-5 Greenville. Bergin (6-2, 200) totaled 13 goals, 26 assists and 90 penalty minutes in 56 starts for the Grrrowl. The 6-3, 203-pound Martin had one assist and 34 PIM's in 30 games.

"I'm a little bit shocked," said Mallette, who is six points behind Alaska's Scott Gomez - a locked-out NHL player - in the ECHL scoring race. "I thought things were going pretty well here, even though we needed a little change. I knew Nick [Vitucci] and [Storm assistant coach] Tony [MacAulay]; Kevin and I played for Tony in Roanoke last year and they called me almost every day this summer, so I knew they were interested in me."

In the trio of forwards, Greenville gets a combined 49 goals and 64 assists. Paolini led the Storm with 45 points (13 goals, 32 assists) in 54 games. Knight, a Bowling Green State University product, was third on the team in scoring behind Nick Parillo with 20 goals and 15 assists. Ziedins was fourth overall, with 16 goals and 17 assists in 55 starts.

Jozsa, an alternate captain, had three goals and six helpers.

"I was really surprised," Paolini said. "I knew we were going to make some trades, but I didn't expect to be one of the guys. When you give up three of your four top scorers, that must say a lot about the players that are coming to Toledo.

"There's going to be a lot of pressure on Mallette and Bergin to fill that offensive void. I don't think people realize how difficult it is to play in the [small, 180 feet by 80 feet] Sports Arena and in the North Division. It'll be interesting to see how they adjust."

Vitucci is hoping for a quick adaptation. Toledo is one of six teams battling for four playoff spots in the North and it meets one of those clubs - Peoria - in back-to-back games at the Sports Arena on Friday and Saturday evening.

The Storm has 15 games remaining in the regular season, which ends April 9.

"We've been trying to slap the guys in the face and let them know this [playoff race] is for real," said Vitucci, who will not name a captain until after this weekend. "Hopefully, a blockbuster trade like this will make them realize this is for real."

Contact Dan Saevig at:

dsaevig@theblade.com.



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