CEDAR RAPIDS – The boys in the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders locker room almost always give grief to the guy getting interviewed.
That’s just the way it is. It was Jason Kalinowski’s turn to feel the heat after Wednesday’s practice.
“What are you going to ask him?” teammate Judd Peterson wanted to know.
Peterson was asked what questions he’d like Kalinowski to be asked.
“I don’t know. How about ‘What does it feel like to lead the team in scoring?’” Peterson said.
Good question, Judd. So what does that feel like, Jason, especially considering you are a first-year USHL player?
“It’s good having such good teammates around you,” Kalinowski said. “Without them, it’d be a lot harder. I wouldn’t be where I (am) without them. A lot of the older guys have kind of taken me under their wing and tried to teach me how to play in the league. They’ve definitely been a big help for me.”
Now that’s a great answer that will get you on the good side of your coaches and teammates. And, technically, Kalinowski doesn’t lead the RoughRiders in scoring anyhow.
After video review by the coaching staff, he got a goal and point taken away by fellow University of New Hampshire commit Andrew Poturalski in last Saturday’s game against Tri-City. Poturalski has 11 points to Kalinowski’s 10.
Still, the 18-year-old forward from Stamford, Conn., (best known as home of World Wrestling Entertainment) has two goals and eight assists, picking up at least one point in all five of Cedar Rapids’ games. The RoughRiders host Youngstown on Friday night at approximately 7:20.
“I think mostly I like to compete down low,” Kalinowski said. “Get to those gritty areas in front of the net. I also feel like I have some skill to make those nice passes or finish goals that I should finish. I guess more of a grinder with some skill at the end of it.”
He compares his game to that of Scott Hartnell of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, who is a fellow redhead, by the way.
“We have liked him for a number of years, drafted him a couple years back,” said RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson. “You never know how it is going to go in this league because it’s so hard, (especially) for a first-year guy. But he just does a lot of things well. He sees the ice very well, and he’s got a very strong stick. He can receive any type of pass. So right there you are off to a good start, having those two qualities.”
As Carlson mentioned, Kalinowski was taken by the RoughRiders in the 2012 USHL Entry Draft. He took part in the club’s 2012 tryout camp but didn’t make the cut, spending last season at The Salisbury School, a prep school in his home state.
Cedar Rapids retained his USHL rights by placing him on their affiliate list.
“I didn’t really know what I was going to do (last year), yet. I just wanted to see what kind of opportunity this was,” Kalinowski said. “They just told me I’d be an affiliate (player) for the year. It was a win-win situation for me. It would have been good to play with the people here, see what else (was) out there. But I was comfortable going back to my prep school for my senior year.”
Judging by the immediate impact he has made, keeping Kalinowski in prep school a third year was a prudent idea. He got the appropriate seasoning and was able to graduate with his classmates.
“He works hard, he goes to the net,” Carlson said. “That’s why you’ve seen some production from him. It’s early, so we’ll see how he does game by game. But he’s done some nice things.”
“Everything is a grind. No shift you can take off here,” Kalinowski said. “Everyone is around the same (ability). But as long as you (work) down low, you’ve got a chance to get some points.”
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