The SHL’s new minor league, the Continental Hockey League, has completed its first week of play. So far, there aren’t any dominant teams, top-flight goal scorers, or dominant netminders. In general, the league’s leaders have yet to emerge… except one.
When it comes to penalty minutes, there’s an undisputed leader: Albuquerque Screaming Eagles defenseman Cedric Meloche. In his first five games, Meloche has already racked up 26 penalty minutes, twice as many as his nearest competitor. He has earned that lofty total largely through his fists, as he has already gotten into four fights.
“I like to fight,” Meloche admitted cheerfully.
The 20-year-old attributes his professional success to his pugilistic abilities. “When i we were young, we all wanted to be hockey players,” said Meloche. “But I was a little guy and could not skate too fast or shoot too good, so I had to fight. I learned to fight good, so I moved up.”
It took all of 42 seconds for Meloche to get into his first professional bout against the Minnesota Freeze. When Freeze D “Chilly Willy” Calligan gave Eagles C Vance Ketterman a hard check into his own bench, Meloche took exception and clocked Calligan in the chest, touching off a donnybrook. Late in the third period, it was Calligan’s turn to take umbrage after Meloche enthusiastically fouled a couple Minnesota players, and the two wound up throwing hands again.
On Saturday, Meloche against fought twice in the Eagles’ game against the Muncie Squirrels. In the first period, Squirrels C Britt Cadmium leveled Eagles RW Ashton Starhawk with a vicious hit that was not penalized. Meloche responded by hauling Cadmium down from behind. Surprised and irked, Cadmium bounced up and stared Meloche down yelling, “You wanna go, little man?” Meloche replied, “Yes, I wish to go!” They proceeded to drop gloves and trade blows, with Meloche bloodying Cadmium’s nose before they could be separated.
Two periods later, Meloche and Muncie D Zander Phthalo began jostling vigorously during a faceoff. The jostling escalated to shoving and then to punching, and Meloche wrestled Phthalo to the ground before they were separated by the referees.
After Saturday’s slugfest, league officials threatened to suspend Meloche if he continued racking up fighting majors at this rate. Eagles coach Butch Slazenger, recognizing Meloche’s value to the team, also counseled his blueliner to rein it in. “I love Cedric Meloche,” said Slazenger. “He’s my favorite player. And all the guys love that he has their back. But he’s not just a goon. He’s strong on both ends, and we can’t afford to have him suspended. So I told him to pump the brakes a bit. Try not to get into multiple fights in a game, watch out for instigator penalties, stuff like that. Don’t give them an excuse to suspend you, because we need you.”
Meloche said he will try to heed his coach’s advice. “I always play the way I play,” said Meloche, “so I will stand up for my team and fight. But I know it is bad if they throw me out, so I will maybe not fight so much. I want to do the best thing for my team.”