The Gentry Zollars World Tour continues with Wheeling on Saturday.
The 27-year-old defenseman is on his third ECHL team and fourth different squad overall this season after getting dealt by the Titans to the Nailers prior to Friday night’s game. But, with his new team coming to where his old squad is based tomorrow, he simply stayed in the press box for the game and will move his gear to the visitors locker room. Oddly, that won’t be an unfamiliar place for him considering he already played in the Sun National Bank Center while with the Orlando Solar Bears earlier this year.
Although his travels could be somewhat of a punchline for some, the Bethel Park, PA native showed marked improvement in his game since his last stint with the Titans at the end of the 2011-12 season.
“Last year, that was my first time in this league and a lot of it was getting used to the pace and everything,” he said.
“I guess basically, that was my cup of coffee. But this year, I’m starting to feel comfortable and be able to play more of my game. Hopefully I can keep building off of that in the future.”
For Zollars, that future will come with Wheeling, who could certainly use the help at their back end. The Nailers sweater will be the eighth that Zollars has worn in just 2 1/2 pro seasons, and he’s the first to admit that his 2012-13 campaign has been one interesting journey so far.
“I think it’s been a bizarre season for most people playing minor pro hockey this year,” he said.
“But that’s what happens with the lockout. I’m just happy to have played in the ECHL for most of this season, which is a positive for me. It’s tough moving around, I’d say it’s more tough mentally than physically. It is tough getting new systems, because you get used to one coach and then you’ve got to go to another coach who wants something else. So, in that aspect, it’s a little tough. But at the same time, it’s part of the job, so you’ve got to be a professional about it and go out every day and play your hardest. You want to help your team win, no matter what jersey you put on.”
Certainly, Zollars, who did not register a point in five games with Trenton this season, hopes that Wheeling’s sweater is one he’ll be able to put on consistently.
“I spoke with the coach, and he said that they’re hurting for D, like a lot of teams in this league are right now,” Zollars said.
“He said if I played well, that I should be able to stick for a while. Hopefully, I’ll keep my fingers crossed that I play well enough for them to keep me for the rest of the season.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com