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F MacDonald reboots in Norway, excels in ECHL return

Monday, March 25th
F MacDonald reboots in Norway, excels in ECHL return

Mike Zingrone/Reading, PA - A good getaway vacation can help clear the mind.For professional hockey players, playing in Europe can do just that.Royals leading goal scorer Josh MacDonald was in the midst of a rough year with the Quad City Mallards last season, he said. After 31 games in his third ECHL season, MacDonald was offered a getaway to Norway and booked his ticket by signing with Stjernen Hockey in Jan. 2018.“When the opportunity came about to go to Norway, I jumped all over it,” MacDonald said. “And it was a good experience. I've never been to Europe before and it was a little different.”MacDonald had established himself in the ECHL before moving to Norway, amassing 102 points in 145 games, but he felt like he had untapped potential.  Hockey in Europe has two main differences from the North American style of play – physicallity and the ice surface. The game isn’t as physical in Europe and the ice surface is 15-feet wider. Those two distinct differences emphasize speed and skill, something MacDonald has plenty of.MacDonald felt comfortable and excelled in his 18 games with Stjernen due to the European style of play adhering to his advantages. He tallied 10 goals and recorded 15 points while playing more than 3,700 miles east of Reading.MacDonald debated staying in Norway but ultimately decided to return to the ECHL with the Royals.“Going over there helped me with just clear my head, get away from things and enjoy the experience,” MacDonald said. “Coming back was like hitting the reset buttons... and know what it takes to kind of hopefully get to the next level.”In his return, MacDonald has 25 goals and 50 points in 57 games. The 24-year-old was also called up and appeared in his first eight AHL games with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in January and February.MacDonald displays his speed and skill on a nightly basis. In the Royals’ 5-2 win against the Newfoundland Growlers Friday, MacDonald recorded a goal and an assist in what was his 200th ECHL game.While in Europe, MacDonald honed one more important skill – maturity.When MacDonald joined Stjernen in January, he was one of the younger members of a team that was in the midst of a late-season playoff push.Looking up to older teammates in a high-adversity situation groomed MacDonald mentally to handle high-intensity playoff hunts like the Royals currently are in.“Hockey is hockey, So the mentality is gonna be the same you can't take a night off,” MacDonald said. “We gotta win pretty much all the rest of our games and that's the same kind of thing we did over there.”Despite being one of the younger Royals players, MacDonald feels more like a veteran player in just his fourth ECHL season.“Coming back here, it's been like one of the veteran guys,” MacDonald said. “I'm always learning day by day by the the older guys and hopefully I can just carry that forward.”MacDonald had a bitter taste in his mouth when Stjernen ended up missing the playoffs by just one point. MacDonald hopes that experience can fuel him to propel a Reading climb in the standings with 5 games remaining in the season.