By Justin Prince
Since rejoining the LaSalle Vipers more than two weeks ago, left winger Mark Manchurek has made an immediate impact with the team.
Manchurek has helped the Vipers win six of their last seven games while almost matching the point total he had with the Windsor Spitfires – one goal and four assists – since being reassigned Jan. 11. The 18-year-old Tecumseh, Ont. native had three goals and three assists along with 16 penalty minutes in 29 games with the Spitfires, playing predominately on the third and fourth lines.
Manchurek was passed over twice in the OHL Priority Selection, but signed with the Spits after earning a roster spot during the team’s training camp last summer. Manchurek helped the Vipers reach the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League Western Conference semi-finals last season.
“Any time you change teams, especially midseason, it’s difficult (to adjust),” said Vipers head coach and general manager Bill Bowler. “Even though Mark has played in our league, it has taken him a game or two just to adapt to our systems again and the pace of play. Slowly, Mark’s made himself back to this level and he’s been surely, but slowly becoming the Mark Manchurek that we know.”
Manchurek was the top rookie scorer in the GOJHL for the Vipers last season with 65 points. During a 6-3 victory against the Lambton Shores Predators at the Vollmer Culture and Recreation Complex Jan. 28, Manchurek scored his first goal since Oct. 16, when he was still with Windsor. Manchurek said he is still adjusting to the new system.
“Obviously when you move up a level in any league, it’s (the OHL) obviously bigger, stronger, faster,” said Manchurek. “So coming down here, you can say it’s a little bit different and easier, but you still have to work hard and you have to give it your all.”
His teammates have also been happy about his play with the team so far. Defenceman Nicolas Crescenzi said Manchurek “is a great asset” for the Vipers and it was “huge to have him back at this point of the season.” Bowler agreed, saying he was a welcomed addition to the team after being with the Vipers last season.
“Everyone knew him before (from last season) and everyone welcomed him in,” said defenceman Nick Gauvin, who was called up by the Windsor Spitfires Jan. 29. “He seems really happy and he’s been able to do a lot for the team. Obviously getting into playoffs, it’s nice to have an extra man on the team so it’s been good.”
Bowler said the main focus for the team was to get Manchurek back to the OHL level. However, Manchurek said his main focus is to help lead his team in the playoffs, which start in late February. As of Jan. 30, the Vipers are within one point of the third place Sarnia Legionnaires in the GOJHL Western Conference. He said he was happy with the way the team had been playing and hoped to keep the momentum going.
“Our team’s been playing really well lately and hopefully we can keep this thing on a roll,” said Manchurek.