Schutz playing with country in mind

by Mark Jeanneret || AHL On The Beat Archive

Felix Schutz just smiles as he thinks about the possibilities.

He’s represented his native Germany on the international ice hockey stage before, but the Olympics are a completely different story.

So, as the days move closer to the Olympic roster finalization for each of the participating countries in the prestigious tournament in being held Feb. 16-28, 2010, in Vancouver, B.C., the 22-year-old forward for the Portland Pirates eagerly anticipates what could be.

“Obviously, it would be a great honor to play in the Olympics,” Schutz said as he stood in the hall of the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester prior to a game against the Monarchs. “It would be incredible but I just have to concentrate on playing my game and hope that will be enough to be selected.”

Schutz, who has five goals and five assists in 19 games so far this season, isn’t the only member of the Pirates excited about the possibility of suiting up for the Germans at the Olympics. Forward Philip Gogulla is also included on the country’s short list of players. The 22-year-old left winger, who was selected 48th overall by the Sabres in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, has four goals and nine assists for 13 points in 22 games as a rookie.

While admittedly off to a slower than expected start to his second American Hockey League season, Schutz picked a perfect time to get things going. He netted his first goal of the season on Nov. 21 against Norfolk with Uwe Krupp, the head coach of the German National Team, in attendance at the Cumberland County Civic Center. The former defenseman and Stanley Cup and Calder Cup winner was at the late November game to evaluate both Schutz and Gogulla as the clock ticks closer to the Dec. 31 roster deadline.

“Yeah, it was nice to score with Uwe at the game,” admitted Schutz, who represented Germany at both the 2007 World Junior Hockey Championships and the 2007 World Championships. “Both Philip and I got a chance to speak with him for a while and got a general update on what’s going on. It was nice to get some feedback but we’ll still have to wait and see what happens with the roster.”

The 5-foot-11 center, who was selected 117th overall by the Sabres in the 2006 National Hockey League Entry Draft, followed his goal against the Admirals with four more goals in his next four games (including his first career two-goal game Nov. 29 in Springfield against the Falcons) to suddenly get himself back on pace to better the 15 goals he scored as a rookie a season ago.

Schutz’s scoring streak has come in the midst of a tremendous streak of success for the Pirates.

After a somewhat slow start the Pirates found their stride, starting with a confidence building 6-3 victory over the Rochester Americans in a game played at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, N.Y. The win halted the Amerks’ franchise-record-tying 11-game winning streak and set the Pirates on a roll. Heading into a set of three games in three days Dec. 4-6, Portland had collected at least one point in the standings in each of their last 10 games, posting a 7-0-3-0 record and collecting 17 of a possible 20 points. The streak carried the Pirates out of the Eastern Conference basement and into a tie for sixth in the Atlantic Division standings, just six points out of first place. The streak as also includes a five-game road point streak in which the Pirates are 3-0-2-0 after posting just one win in their first nine road contests.

“I think it was just a matter of everyone coming together,” Schutz said in regards to the Pirates recent success. “We had a lot of new faces to start the season and a lot of guys in and out of the line-up during the first couple of months for different reasons. Now guys are getting back in and we’re enjoying the results that we expected with the season began.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s been good to finally start scoring, especially with the way things have been going lately and the success we have enjoyed as a team. It’s nice to know that I am helping the team and having a positive impact in games.”

Depending on Portland’s success this season, Schutz (and Gogulla) might also get a chance to take part in the 2010 World Championships being hosted by Germany. The opening game on May 7, 2010, between the United States and Germany is scheduled to be played at Veltins-Arena, a retractable-roof football stadium in Gelsenkirchen which has already sold almost all of its 75,976 seats.

Schutz flashes another smile at the thought of playing on home ice in the World Championships as another set of exciting possibilities stream though his mind.