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MAULDIN UP FOR THE CHALLENGE

By Danielle Catalano
 
March has not been the only thing roaring in like a lion these recent weeks. With 45 points, a personal-best five-game point streak and a +11 rating, Binghamton Senator left wing Greg Mauldin has been busy working the club’s top scoring line, setting career highs in points, goals (20) and assists (25) and using his versatile style of play to help the B-Sens reach the playoffs for the first time in four years.
 
“I think everything is just jelling now,” says Mauldin, who lives by the philosophy that hard work pays off. It makes sense, then, that when 2008 ended with the score sheets showing the left wing had recorded a modest 13 points (4+9) and 80 shots on goal, Mauldin barely flinched. His time would come. If there was any consolation for the Holliston, Massachusetts native during the season’s first three months, it would be tying the franchise record for fastest goal to start a period at 11 seconds, back on November 11 in a 6-2 loss against Bridgeport during the team’s memorable trip to Summerside, Prince Edward Island.
 
This speed was perhaps a premonition. With the team battling injury plagues, adjusting to call-ups to Ottawa, and deep in the race to the Calder Cup playoffs, it appears Mauldin’s time has arrived. “He’s good offensively and defensively,” says teammate Danny Bois. “You can put him in any position that needs to be fulfilled. With his great speed and penalty kill, you can put him anywhere. He’s been playing center lately with Peter being out…and really elevates the game.”
 
Just how dramatic the elevation? Since Jan. 1, the left wing has added 16 goals and 16 assists to his resumé and raised his plus-minus rating almost fivefold from +2 to +11. “I think playing a little bit more defense in the offense builds up a rush,” says Mauldin of his increased performance. “It makes it a little bit easier to play defense in the other team’s offensive zone and make plays.”
 
Regardless if Mauldin is playing wing or center, the team’s offensive system remains the same, says head coach Curtis Hunt: Play below the tops of the circles and get shots off from either below the goal line using hand skills or using foot skills to work the puck toward the net.
 
“Greg’s a player who can play in those tight areas,” Hunt says of Mauldin’s offensive execution. “When we’re healthy, he provides the speed, the energy and the pressure with the line of Peter in the middle, but he’s also shown us that from the center position, he can win faceoffs, especially against Norfolk last week when we play against one of the better centermen in the league with Konopka. [Greg] moves that work ethic and quickness to the middle. He brings a different king of game than a Peter Regin or a Josh Hennessy, but it’s certainly a very effective game, as we saw during the third period of our last game. Their line was dynamite. We were able to spend the majority of that time in the offensive zone, and a lot of that runs off the centerman.”
 
It is of little doubt to Mauldin that playing alongside team captain Denis Hamel (+6) and center Peter Regin (+13) has benefited his statistics tremendously. The trio’s disciplined performance—the line’s averaging 34 penalty minutes—has created an offensive flurry this season, generating more than a quarter of the team’s goals (60) from nearly a quarter of the club’s total shots on goal (502). In addition, captain and crew are responsible for feeding assists one out of every five scoring drives. Equally impressive is the unit’s role on the B-Sens’ power-play, which has held the league’s top position since early-November. Out of 84 power-play goals, the teammates have netted 23.
 
“I think we work pretty well together,” Mauldin says. “We’re different types of players. Hammer is a shooter, obviously, and I think what happens on our line, is that other teams focus on him—I mean come on, he had 56 goals one year, they know he can score. I think the focus is pushed on him, so it allows Peter, this being his first year and all, slip under the radar a lot. Peter has really good hands and makes really good plays. To be quite honest, I think of myself as just working the corners, pushing them the puck so they can work their magic.”
 
While working with such a dynamic tandem has swayed how Mauldin attacks the net—the forward has increased his monthly shots on goal average from 25 (Oct. to Dec.) to 35 (Jan. to March) and is in fourth place with in total team points (one place behind Hamel and one place ahead of Regin)—it is his poise on shorthanded plays and defensive prowess that showcases Mauldin’s versatility on the ice, says Hunt, noting the left wing’s aggressive patrolling of blue line paired with his deft speed has been effective at creating turnovers in the neutral zone as well as highlight-reel breakaways.
 
“The penalty killers—there is nothing glamorous about it,” the head coach says. “It’s hard work, it’s attention to details, great minds and habits and a little bit of instinct. To have a player with Mauldin’s skill set—with very good instincts, quickness and pressure—the ability to handle the puck under pressure to make clear passes as well as place pressure on the other side’s players, it is obviously why he is a key member of our penalty kill. He’s a smart player and now that he’s taking faceoffs more consistently, we find that part of the game improving.”
 
“I’ve never really been one to sit back and watch,” Mauldin says, assessing his performance. “I like to be the one who kind of takes charge, try to put them on edge a little bit, putting them in a pressure situation and causing them to panic just a little bit. …We have to be the predators instead of the prey. Just go after the puck and hopefully they turn it over, but if they don’t hopefully the next time is gets them thinking that they don’t have enough time and they get nervous and panic. So, I think it’s just a trickle down effect. It may not work that time, but maybe the next time it does work. Maybe it gets them a bit panicky for us to get a goal or create other chances for us.”
 
Such control and patience will be depended upon as the team endeavors to secure a spot in the post-season. Considering the B-Sens are earnestly fending off the Philadelphia Phantoms for the final Calder Cup playoff position while playing in the division that is yielding four of the league’s top 10 points leaders, the league’s best goalie and three of the top five goal scorers, Mauldin is looking forward to what surprises lie in store for the team over the next three weeks—and hopefully beyond.
 
“It sounds a little odd, but it’s the challenge of getting there that actually has been fun,” Mauldin says. “Don’t get me wrong, it would be better if we had everything clinched but the challenge of trying to get the team into the playoffs makes it exciting to compete every night. It will be nice for us and the fans at the end when we’re in the playoffs to say that we had a big streak, that we did whatever it was that we had to do to string things along to get into the post-season.”

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