Photo courtesy of Shannon Valerio
Seven weeks removed from sustaining a brutal lower body injury at North Dakota on November 11, Emil Romig returned to Magness Arena in style. The senior forward and Pio spark plug recorded his first goal of the 2016 campaign and an assist for the University of Denver Pioneers against Arizona State on Friday, Jan. 6.
Such a setback during his final season of college hockey was devastating. Yet, Romig’s return exemplifies his intensive labor and dedication exhausted over the past weeks to earn his spot in the lineup.
Following his second series back, (at Providence Dec. 30-31) Romig said, “It feels great [to be back]. Obviously, it’s tough. Everyone has great plans for their senior season and then to go down and to be out for an extended period of time like that is tough. But I think the guys did a great job while I was out of the lineup. Right now is obviously awesome and I am really enjoying it.”
At 5’9’’ and 180 lbs., what he lacks in size Romig makes up for with his labor-intensive grit on and off the puck. The Vienna, Austria native delivers a remorseless style of play every night and he utilizes his blistering speed to pressure on the forecheck and create scoring opportunities down low.
“Before I had my injury, I couldn’t find a way to put the puck into the net or produce,” Romig said after scoring against Arizona State. “I thought I was playing well, but I just couldn’t produce. It’s great to get the win and to contribute offensively too.”
Romig has always understood and embraced his role as a forward on the third or fourth line. Differing from the skill-sets that players like Dylan Gambrell, Henrik Borgström, or Troy Terry use to dominate with the puck, Romig facilitates the tenacity and intensity Denver hockey thrives on (remember the 4th line energy from last year?).
“In every well-working team and every good team you’ve got players that cherish their different roles and I know that my role is to create energy for the guys and get guys going. That’s what I pride myself on; trying to use my skating, trying to use my shot and being aggressive out there. Hopefully, guys can feed off of that. That’s what I’m here for,” Romig said.
Romig’s absence was notable for the last part of the first half. The lack of energy was pronounced as there were periods that the Pios just couldn’t generate much energy at all. Romig’s presence physically and figuratively is a crucial component to this team now that he has assumed a larger role.
“When we lost last year in the Frozen Four it was heartbreaking,” Romig said. “All of us returning players from day one have had one goal in mind; to get back there and win the whole thing. That’s what we’ve tried to build on and tried to have in front of our eyes everyday when we come to work here. For the second half of the season, when we have a lot of young guys playing a lot of big role on our team and everyone has to get used to the way we want to play. Once everyone figured that out like coach Montgomery says, ‘We become an oiled machine.’ Then everyone feels great about themselves, we feel unstoppable and that’s what we want to do.”
Fortunately, Romig is back slamming his frame into the boards and outpacing his opponents playing 200-foot hockey. Romig may have returned, but he’s not dwelling on the past few months. He has his eyes fixed on one thing: coming home from Chicago with some hardware.