Columbus Cottonmouths forward Ryan McCarthy has a simple game plan for the upcoming Southern Professional Hockey League season.
“I plan to trade penalty minutes for points this year,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy returns for his third Snakes season, joining veterans Craig Stahl, Orrin Hergott and Tim Green, defenseman Andrew Dwyer, rookie forward Jesse Cole and goaltender Chad Rycroft on the team’s training camp roster.
The Brampton, Ontario, native stands only 5-foot-10 but is a bundle of energy and enthusiasm. McCarthy accumulated 188 penalty minutes last season, second in the league only to Snakes’ enforcer Dan Leslie’s 222.
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“My job is to get under everybody’s skin,” McCarthy said. “I’ll do whatever it takes to win. If I need to stir stuff up, create a scoring opportunity or block a shot, I’ll do it. I want to be the best all-around player I can be.”
McCarthy joined the Snakes in early December 2007, netting 20 points in 37 games. In 2008-09, he played in 57 of 60 regular season contests, scoring 20 goals and 13 assists.
McCarthy earned the first suspension of his career on Feb. 20 in the benches-clearing brawl on the road against Twin City. When McCarthy saw Roman Marakhovski on the receiving end of a sucker punch, he leaped over the bench and raced to his teammate’s defense.
“I’m not taking any credit for what happened in the brawl. We were all sticking up for each other. It was the turning point of our season. After that we went on a huge winning streak. We were shorthanded and needed to play for each other. Between the suspensions and injuries, we were down to two lines and four defensemen,” McCarthy said.
After the brawl, the Snakes were unbeaten for the remainder of the regular season, going 8-0-4 and capturing 20 of a possible 24 points.
“What I remember most about last season is how impressive we were down the final stretch.” McCarthy said. “We performed pretty well in the playoffs but not like we did at the end of the regular season. Fayetteville knew what they had to do. After Game 1, we had trouble putting the puck in the net.”
McCarthy was the Snakes’ leading scorer in the playoffs with 7 assists. The Snakes scored 9 goals in Game 1 and a total of 11 in the next four contests, including a 2-0 shutout by Fayetteville to end the season.
McCarthy had a friendly competition going with Leslie in the race for the most penalty minutes. Leslie not only led the league in PIM, but also in major penalties with 28 in 56 games played. McCarthy had a league-leading 64 minor penalties in 57 games.
McCarthy has no plans to adjust his style of play, just his thought process.
“I was disappointed in the stupid penalties I took,” McCarthy said. “I need to cut back on some of the stick penalties but still play the fierce game I play.”
The Snakes open training camp on Oct.12. Opening night is Friday, Oct. 23 against Fayetteville. The Snakes also host the FireAntz the following night. Game time for both contests is 7:30.