David Shantz was pegged as the Victoria Salmon Kings starter before the season even began.
This Kings were supposed to be a first place team, and Shantz, an AHL goalie, was going to lead them.
A second round draft pick of the Florida Panthers in 2004, Shantz split last season between the Kings and the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat.
Before deciding whether or not he’d come back to the game this year, however, he escaped from it, traveling to Africa.
It was his second straight off-season spent touring Africa’s eastern coast.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on, I needed a release,” Shantz said. “I saw different cultures, got involved with some people and helped out with a few things.”
Shantz made his way south through Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. “The (initiatives) I got involved with were nothing too serious, but I ended up getting into the perfect situation and having time to reflect.”
In September, when Shantz did come back to the game, he signed to the Manitoba Moose, knowing he could be assigned Victoria in the ECHL. Fifty games later, Shantz has played 39 of the Kings’ games. Only now, however, is he getting his rewards.
With Shantz in net, the Kings (22-25-3) started their current six-game road trip with a 2-0 win over the Las Vegas Wranglers (30-17-3) on Friday, followed by a 4-2 win over Las Vegas on Sunday afternoon.
The Wranglers didn’t score until the third period on Sunday, making it five straight periods of shutout hockey by Shantz.
“I guess I had a little streak there,” Shantz said. His streak could have gone a little longer but for five straight Salmon Kings penalties to start Sunday’s final frame.
“A couple of the calls were mandatory, a broken-stick slash and an over the glass clearing attempt,” Shantz said.
“The weekend was another collective effort by the team.”
As for the upcoming season Shantz said another trip to Africa is possible, depending on where he’s at with school. The 25-year-old is currently enrolled at McMaster University, studying online.
“It’s one game at a time right now, we’ll see where the season and school take me.”
The Reading Royals lead the ECHL and Eastern Conference with 67 points while Las Vegas leads the Western conference despite being held at 63 points by Victoria over the weekend.
The seventh-place Kings are in Bakersfield tonight (Feb. 15) against the sixth-place Condors, who are 14 points ahead in the standings. The trip resumes in Stockton on Friday with three games in three days.