It might come to an end soon, but Grant Rollheiser is finally getting to play hockey.
After four years as a backup at Boston University — where Rollheiser and the Terriers won the national championship when he was a freshman in 2009 — and stints with two teams that included zero games played, Rollheiser has been on the ice more than ever this season.
Rollheiser, recently signed as an emergency backup by the Thunder, found himself Wichita’s starter when Torrie Jung was injured by a puck to the throat against Allen on Feb. 19. Jung’s return is imminent and could occur this weekend as the Thunder plays home games against Bloomington and Missouri.
Rollheiser’s five games with the Thunder were preceded by 19 with Utah of the ECHL. The 24 games is two times more than Rollheiser played in any college season; he lost his part of a platoon with BU during his freshman season and never regained it.
“I went from not playing a game in seven months to playing three games in three days when I went to Utah,” Rollheiser said. “It’s just getting back into game shape and into the swing of things, into a groove a little bit. It took a little bit of time because I was used to not playing at all.”
Rollheiser was drafted by the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs in 2008 out of a prominent junior league in Canada and seemed to be improving his stock by opting to play collegiately at BU, a perennial national-championship contender.
Instead, Rollheiser’s career never really got started at BU. He played in 12 of the Terriers’ 47 games in what was initially a timeshare with fellow freshman Kieran Millan.
But when Rollheiser suffered an injury midway through the season and Millan helped lead the Terriers to the national title, Rollheiser had an uphill battle to earn more playing time. It didn’t happen — he played in 17 games combined in his final three years at BU.
The most difficult aspect of Rollheiser’s plight is that Millan has proven to be a similarly talented player. He was drafted a year later and one round earlier than Rollheiser and has also ended up in the CHL with the expansion Denver Cutthroats.
“He took off and the team took off,” Rollheiser said. “When I came back I played a couple more games and that was it. We just kind of rode him the whole way to the championship and it was kind of like that all four years there. He set school records and all that.
“It’s hard to be mad because he played so well, but it was tough not being able to play as much, for sure.”
Now Jung is on his way back, and if and when Kevin Regan returns from a groin injury, Rollheiser may again be searching for employment.
As a well-traveled rookie, the 23-year-old Rollheiser is beginning to understand, the hard way, the realities of minor-league hockey. He’s finally in a groove, only to see it coming to an end.
“I’m not really thinking about it like that,” Rollheiser said. “You want (Jung) to get better and get back in the lineup. I’m not trying to think about it too much. I’m just trying, when I play, to play well.”
Allen 4, Wichita 0 — Aaron Dell stopped all 28 Thunder shots as the Americans won Friday night in Allen, Texas.
First period — 1, Allen, Lukin (Deitsch, Hendrikx), 11:46. 2, Allen, McMillin (Lukin, Deitsch), 13:09. Penalties — Daniels, Allen (handling puck), 4:17; Lutz, Wichita (tripping), 9:12; Madden, Wichita (interference), 17:11; Madden, Wichita (fighting major), 17:11; Doyle, Allen (fighting major), 17:11.
Second period — 3, Allen, Maiani, 10:32. Penalties — Robinson, Wichita (hooing), 1:33; McMillin, Allen (high sticking), 3:17; Reaney, Wichita (tripping), 6:54; Doyle, Allen (too many men), 12:43; Doyle, Allen (slashing), 19:22.
Third period — 4, Allen, Maiani (Ludwig, Dell), 17:08 (pp). Penalties — Boogaard, Wichita (hooking), 3:58; Robinson, Wichita (interference), 15:28.
Power plays — Wichita 0 for 4; Allen 1 for 6.
Shots — Wichita 10-11-7—28. Allen 10-8-9—27.
Saves — Wichita, Rollheiser 27 shots, 23 saves; Allen, Dell 28-28.
T — 2:34. A — 3,927.