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Plante, Motin stepping into bigger roles

by Andrew Tressler || AHL On The Beat Archive 

At the beginning of the season, the Springfield Falcons were a veteran-led team with a few rookies mixed in. With recent transactions, call-ups and injuries, some of these rookies have been called upon to step into a larger role on the team.

The Falcons have two rookies who have been on the roster all season long, and defensemen Alex Plante and Johan Motin have become essential players each with their own roles both on and off the ice.

Plante, who earned his first recall to the National Hockey League on Jan. 31, is a 20-year-old native of Brandon, Man., who before this season played four-plus seasons in junior with the Western Hockey League and the Calgary Hitmen. Plante was a first-round draft pick (15th overall) by the Edmonton Oilers in 2007.

The 6-foot-3 Plante took a major step forward during his second full season with the Hitmen, recording eight goals and 30 assists for a total of 38 points in 58 games. Plante also received 81 penalty minutes during that year.

The following year, Plante was hindered by injuries only appearing in 36 games for Calgary. Last season, his final one in the WHL, Plante once again performed well in 68 games with 157 PIM, eight goals, and 37 assists to make up his 45 points on the season.

“It’s definitely different than in junior,” said Plante on the AHL. “Everything’s a little bit quicker, bigger, stronger and faster so the timing and that sort of stuff is one thing, but everyone is also a lot smarter so you pick up on the little things that guys do to be successful.”

During his first 48 games with the Falcons, Plante has two goals, seven assists and 122 PIM. He scored his AHL/pro goal on Jan. 9 in Bridgeport and has seen more playing time on the power play as the season has moved forward.

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As all rookies have, Plante has seen his share of ups and downs this season. But Plante has seen his role on the team increase, especially while playing with fellow blueliner Theo Peckham.

“We both play pretty similar type of games,” said Plante on Peckham. “We both try to take care of our own end first and any sort of offensive thing after that is just a bonus. Whenever you start playing with someone for a long period of time it definitely starts to help as well.”

Plante has also learned from his father Cam, who is a former AHL and NHL defenseman, as well as his brother Tyler, who is currently a goaltender with the Rochester Americans. Alex Plante has used what his brother and father have taught him about professional hockey to have a better understanding of what needs to be done in order to make it to the next level.

Unlike Plante, Motin has played professional hockey prior to this season. The 20-year-old had skated in the Swedish elite league since 2006-07, and is considered a young, mature defenseman with good size and strength. He was drafted by the Oilers in the fourth round in 2008.

“He is used to playing against men,” said Falcons head coach Rob Daum. “But the pace of the game, the smaller rink, [they] are all adjustments that he has had to make. You’ve seen nights where he’s done a good job and you’ve seen other nights where he’s struggled.

“Overall, I think he’s done a good job. I think he still has a long way to go as far as his play is concerned, but he’s making progress every day.”

Like Plante, Motin also scored his first AHL goal in Bridgeport, his coming on Dec. 5. Motin also took a puck in the face in that game and showed his toughness by wearing a full-cage facemask and returning to the lineup the very next day.

Not only are Motin and Plante in their first year with the Falcons, but they also live together off the ice as well and sit together on the bus. Making the jump to the pro ranks can be a unique experience, but Motin and Plante have already shown that their hard work is paying off as they continue to develop in Springfield.