WHEELING - Last season was one Wheeling Nailers forward Zack Torquato would rather forget. In fact, the fifth-year pro refuses to talk about it.
''Last year is over with an I am just focusing on this season,'' he said after a recent practice at WesBanco Arena.
A myriad of injuries derailed Torquato's 2012-2013 season, to the point he only played 45 of a possible 72 games. Every time things seemed to be getting better, they ultimately got worse.
FILE PHOTO BY JOE LOVELL
Wheeling's Zack Torquato
With the Nailers missing the playoffs, Torquato had more free time to get healthy than in a normal offseason. He took advantage.
''Every year is different. I put four or five months into training this summer,'' Torquato said. ''I feel back to 100 percent.''
Torquato's numbers suggest he's better than ever. Coming off a week in which he scored seven points (3g-4a) as the Nailers went 2-0-1, the Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, native was named the Sher-Wood Hockey ECHL Player of the Week on Tuesday.
The former sixth-round draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings said earlier in the season he wanted to help the Nailers more on the offensive side of things. Torquato has done that, as he's the team's leading scorer with 17 points (5g, 12a) and is averaging better than a point per game.
''He can play all three positions. We've got him playing wing, which is good,'' Wheeling coach Clark Donatelli said. ''He's on the power play, he can kill some penalties and he provides good leadership in the room.
''He's just a real good player to have and we're fortunate to have him.''
It's no coincidence that the Nailers' recent surge (5-0-1 in their last six) has coincided with the emergence of Torquato's offensive game. The power play has heated up, the penalty kill remains second in the league, and the club in general is difficult to play against.
Wheeling concludes its five-game road trip with a matchup tonight in Cincinnati and Friday in Elmira, before coming home to begin a nine-game homestand Saturday night against Toledo (Pink in the Rink), with another game scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at WesBanco Arena against the Cyclones (Pups N' Pucks).
Already without the services of forwards Denver Manderson, Stephen McAulay and Cody Sylvester, as well as defenseman Dustin Stevenson and goaltender Eric Hartzell, all of whom were called up to the American Hockey League last week, the Nailers lost Carter Rowney, another forward, to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Tuesday. Rowney scored 13 points (6g-7a) in 15 games for the Nailers, including his first professional hat trick Nov. 8 at Fort Wayne.