Whether it's blocking shots, scoring goals or dropping the gloves, John Scully has made an impression in his first season with the Quad-City Storm.
"He's pretty much the heart of the team," head coach Dave Pszenyzcny said. "He does it all."
At the moment, that doesn't feel like hyperbole. Scully scored the team's only two goals in a loss to Huntsville last week, and against Peoria on New Year's Eve, he put the exclamation point on a drubbing of the league's best team with a fight in the closing minutes of the game.
The 26-year-old forward has earned his spot on the power-play and penalty kill and has five goals and one assist this season for the Storm.
"I just go out there and work as hard as I can and hope good things happen," Scully said. "If other guys are seeing that and jumping on board too, that's awesome."
Scully isn't a complete stranger to the Quad-Cities. A native of Arlington Heights, Illinois, Scully has been visiting the Quad-Cities the past few years to participate in dek hockey tournaments. It was at one of those tournaments last summer where Scully met Pszenyczny, and the forward was eager to join the expansion SPHL team this season.
"I've always wanted to prove myself in this league," Scully said. "I wanted to prove it to myself and to everyone that I could do it, and it's certainly nice to get an opportunity here in the Quad-Cities, and I couldn't be happier."
Scully might not have been the flashiest of signings, having played just nine games in the SPHL in his career, not registering a point with the Mississippi RiverKings in the 2016-17 season.
However, in the Federal Hockey League, Scully had proven to be a reliable player with plenty of potential. He tallied 86 goals and 104 assists for 190 points in 185 games and served as a captain with both the Brewster Bulldogs and the Watertown Wolves.
Last year with the Wolves, Scully helped lead his team to a Commissioner's Cup championship with 67 points in 47 games.
"He leads by example. He's not going to be the voice in the room, he's just going to go out there and put his nose to the grindstone to get the job done," Pszenyczny said. "He's a winner, and I want winners and guys that know how to win."
Whether it's the confidence that comes with winning a title or two years more experience, Scully is making the most of his second time in the SPHL but is also quick to credit others for his strong play.
"Coach is putting me in a position to succeed with some good linemates who are making the game easier and opening up some chances," Scully said. "It's just being in the right place at the right time."
As the year has gone on, Scully has gone from seeing some limited ice time to being an integral part of the Storm, doing the little things that are often overlooked by those on the outside but noticed by those in the organization.
"Going back to the beginning of the year, you're always going to base things off of guys' resumes from previous years," Pszenyczny said. "Slowly you start realizing what's working, what's not and is this guy going to fit in my system? With Sculls, I can stick him anywhere, and if anything, he's going to boost that line. He's going to be the guy going into the corners and getting the job done."
Or, as was the case in the last meeting with Peoria, the guy dropping the gloves after some his teammates' offers to fight were ignored by the Rivermen.
"If something needs to be done, I'm more than willing to do it. The opportunity presented itself, and I was all for it at that point," Scully said. "We've got tough guys, from the littlest guys to the biggest guys on the team."
Watching Scully — one of the smaller players on the team at 5-foot-11 — win the fight sent a message, not only to Peoria, but also to his own team, one Pszenyczny hopes can continue to lead the Storm to more wins down the road.
"That speaks volumes," Pszenyczny said. "It gets the bench up, it gets them riled up. If our little guy is able to fight, we've got a pretty tough team. I think for our whole team all the way down, there aren't many guys that aren't willing to answer the bell."