Jimmy Morgan has been piling up goals.
Peter Mingus has been filling up the assist column.
Together, the West Sound line mates have climbed to the top of the Northern Pacific Hockey League scoring race and lifted the Warriors to first place in the standings.
“We had some good chemistry right off the bat,” said Morgan, the NPHL goals leader with 24 in 17 games, including a hat trick in the team’s most recent game, his third straight four-point effort in a 7-4 win over the second-place Bellingham Blaze. “We’re similar players.”
The stat sheet currently says differently, giving the impression of two distinctly different styles. While Morgan has the goals, Mingus has 41 assists among this league-leading 50 points.
Both players and head coach/general manager Jay Miller expect those numbers to even out as the season goes on.
“He’s just moving it to me and I have the hot stick right now,” Morgan said. “He’s kind of had a bum wrist and hand.”
Mingus has assists in all 17 games he has played and multiple assists in 13 games.
“Pete’s been playing kind of hurt,” Miller said. “He has an injury that’s really affected his shot, so he’s been kind of relegated to that playmaker status.
“Both should have equal goals and assists based on the styles that they both play, but Pete has taken on that playmaker role a little bit more than he would. He has the ability to score a ton more goals. I’m going to chalk it up to that injury, so hopefully that changes here in the next couple of weeks.”
Mingus, a 20-year-old from Eugene, Ore., returned to the United States last season after playing in Canada. He joined the Bremerton, Wash.-based Warriors during the season and immediately became one of the leaders on a second-year franchise that went from missing the playoffs in 2011-12 to winning the regular-season title in 2012-13.
“I found that the team needed some leadership and some direction to where the team needed to be,” said Mingus, who is now the oldest player on the roster. “We had a pretty good team skill-wise. I just felt like the guys really weren’t meshing together.
“Basically, I wanted to bring whatever I could with as much effort as possible and that helped me to get more ice time. I just fit in by working hard and showing the team I’m here to play as hard as I can.”
Mingus showed his goal-scoring ability with 11, along with 13 assists, in 15 regular-season games. He added five goals and five assists in eight playoff games, serving as the top postseason scorer before the season ended in disappointment with a championship series loss to Bellingham.
Morgan joined on this season. The Highlands Ranch, Colo. resident had been playing in the Littleton Hawks program. Miller said Morgan, who recently celebrated his 19th birthday, has the possibility of moving up a higher league soon.
“I’m happy with my choice,” said Morgan, who in addition to his goals is tied for third in the NPHL with 22 assists for second place overall with 46 points. “We’re just kind of trying to keep it going right now.”
With Mingus and Morgan leading the way, the Warriors are 16-1-0-1 for a one-point advantage over the Blaze (16-5-0-0) with three games in hand. Although Bellingham is responsible for both West Sound losses, the Warriors have a 4-2 lead in the season series with the latest victory.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
For the last 15 years, Ian Walsh has crisscrossed the United States as an NHL official. In this Part 2 of our conversation with Walsh, the 42-year-old Philadelphia native fielded a series of questions discussing life on the road, his conditioning schedule, mentors, on-ice struggles, the evolution of the game and advice for aspiring officials.
USA Hockey: How do you think you've been able to maintain all of the officiating success you've had over the last 15 years?
Ian Walsh: I believe one of my strengths as an official is my work ethic. I come to the rink every night ready to work hard and give 100 percent. I also believe I am very coachable, and when I'm offered a suggestion for improvement, I try very hard to implement that advice into my game.
USAH: What is your conditioning schedule like during the NHL season? How about during the off-season?
Walsh: During the season, conditioning work is more about maintaining what you built up over the summer. The workouts aren't as intense but you must continue to take good care of your body. Game-day workouts usually include a 30-minute bike ride or a couple miles run at the hotel gym. I also like to do some core work and light strength training on top of that.
The weather in Portland is amazing in the summer, and I prefer to be outside and on my road bike. I usually get in about four days a week of riding outdoors to help build my endurance and strength. I try to play hockey a few days a week as well to help work on my skating.
USAH: When did you realize you finally had cemented your career as an official? What was that feeling like?
Walsh: I don't know if you ever get that feeling. Every night is a different challenge in our league. It is a hard, hard league to officiate. The scrutiny of every call, every goal, ever non-call is such a challenge for all of us. The best players and coaches in the world expect us to perform at such a high level every night, and we have to be ready for anything that comes our way. It’s a privilege to be on the ice in the NHL, and I think that is something no official takes for granted.
USAH: What has been your biggest accomplishment to date as an official?
Walsh: Being chosen to participate in four Stanley Cup playoffs is what I'm most proud of. It’s an incredible honor to be selected and that’s the goal for every official each year. Also, being part of the team that was chosen to represent the NHL at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics was a phenomenal experience and a great opportunity.
USAH: What has been the biggest hurdle/obstacle you've had to overcome in your officiating career?
Walsh: I’ve been lucky so far, knock on wood, that I haven’t had any serious injuries. Other than some bumps and bruises, I’ve been relatively injury-free in my career. The biggest challenge is to be able to bounce back from calls you made that aren't correct. In this day and age, we usually know within minutes after the game if we made a wrong decision. When you make a call that impacts the game, it’s hard on the mind. Unfortunately, we make mistakes and what most people don't understand is that nobody takes it harder than the official making that mistake. Being able to bounce back from a mistake is something all officials must learn to do.
USAH: Who has had the most impact on your officiating career over the past 15 years? What has that person or those people taught you?
Walsh: Nobody has helped me more over my NHL career than fellow referee Paul Devorski. I've worked a lot of games with Paul and we’ve had the opportunity to travel together on the road. As an elite, veteran referee, he has been able to pass down some of his knowledge to me to help me become a better official. Paul is retiring this year, and our staff will sorely miss him.
USAH: How has the game changed, besides speed, since you started in the early 2000s?
Walsh: I would say the biggest change besides the speed of the game would be the use of technology. It is amazing what you see at rink – teams have iPads on the bench, super slo-motion video replays, hi-def video scoreboards, etc. With all that technology, it makes the officials job appear easy. People forget that the official on the ice sees a play one time, in real time, and must make a split-second decision on that play. It often appears quite different when you see a replay in super slo-mo on hi-def after a game.
USAH: What advice can you give aspiring NHL/professional league officials as they progress in their career?
Walsh: I would say make sure you have a backup plan. Making it to the NHL is everyone’s goal, but there are very few jobs available. There are so many factors that go into hiring an official and a lot of those are out of your control. Go and work the highest level available to you. Don't worry about other officials, if you are good enough, the NHL will find you. Also, control what you can control – always work on your skating, know your rules and come to the rink every night with a strong work ethic and a great attitude.