The Reign announced the signing of their 12th forward for the upcoming season, former University of Vermont standout Peter Lenes.
Lenes is a relatively small 5-foot-6 and 160 pounds, but offers some of the skill and speed that Reign coach Karl Taylor believes was lacking at times last season.
“He’s a smaller player but his skill level is obviously at an elite level,” Taylor said.
Lenes was the Catamounts’ second-leading scorer last season, tallying 15 goals and 31 points in 39 games, both high marks in a four-year college career. He was a key contributer shuffling between the top two lines, and on the power play, as Vermont advanced to the Frozen Four — NCAA hockey’s equivalent of basketball’s Final Four. The Shelburn, Vt. native doesn’t want for toughness, according to one report. This is what he looks and sounds like in person.
For Lenes, who has known Reign forward Jon Rheault since the two were 12, the opportunity represents the culmination of a dream long deferred.
“We go back to New England hockey camps and then we were supposed to play juniors together, but that didn’t work out,” Lenes said. “We were supposed to play college together. That didn’t work out. We always wanted to play together. We’re really good friends and we always talk.”
The 23-year-old has a unique lineage. His father was born in Austria and, as a consequence, Lenes has dual citizenship. He was considering some offers to play in Europe next season, and had placed some calls into the American Hockey League, but in the end considered the Reign his best option off Rheault’s recommendation.
“Jon said if you’re playing good, (Taylor) will tell you that. If you’re playing bad, he’s not going to hide that from you. It’s straightforward,” Lenes said. “It’s how you perform. You’ve got to be accountable. There’s no games in that scenario. If you play bad, you don’t play. If you play well, who knows what will happen. I like the honesty. Jon really liked him.”
Lenes is hoping to beat the odds and work his way up to the NHL someday. According to the ECHL Web site, 407 former ECHL players have appeared in an NHL game. The site doesn’t record the height of each, but it’s fair to say the odds are doubly stacked against a 5-foot-6 player trying to play in a league full of 6-footers.
That’s sure to be a motivating factor in Lenes’ first pro season.
“I’m trying to grow as a player to make it to the next level,” he said. “I’m going to be a sponge, make some sacrifices here and there.”
In Ontario, Lenes joins a forward corps that includes Rheault as well as Denny Johnston, Doug Spooner, Todd Jackson, Dan Leslie, Robert Pearce, Brian Matte, Tyler Mugford, Tim Kraus, Jon Francisco and Geoff Walker at forward; as well as defensemen Chad Starling, David Walker and Brian Kilburg.
According to Taylor, Johnston has been accepted to the University of Saskatchewan’s medical school and is currently deciding between attending school and playing for the Reign.