By Michael McHugh
The U.S. is a whole new world for Aeros rookie sensation Roman Voloshenko.
Less than five months ago, he came to the U.S. from Moscow, Russia, with hopes of playing in the NHL. For, now, he is spending his time in Houston, Texas, pursuing his dreams and new horizons.
Voloshenko, a Belarus native, arrived in the U.S. with his eyes wide open. Moscow is very different, he said. Everything here is different.
Having only been in the U.S. since August, Voloshenko has had to make a lot of adjustments, especially with the culture and the language. Having a very limited vocabulary, he has quickly picked up the language, with the help of teammates and neighbors, Bill Kinkel and Clayton Stoner.
When I see something, and I do not know what it is, I just point and they tell me, said the 19-year-old Voloshenko, who leads the Aeros and all American Hockey League rookies in goals (17). Theyve taught me a lot.
Off the ice, Voloshenko enjoys soaking up the Texas culture. His mother, Marina, came to stay with him in October, and became chief cook for her son, Kinkel and Stoner. Favorite dishes include pasta, chicken and cheese. Marina even cooked a turkey on Thanksgiving. I do not know this holiday, he said, but we had a Russian Style turkey.
Together Marina and Roman have discovered the joys of shopping at the famed Galleria mall in Houston. It is big! My mother does not speak any English, so I have to translate for her, he explained. There is nothing like it in Russia.
Voloshenko began skating at the age of five and played on the Russian national team as a teenager. He was selected by Minnesota in the second round (42nd overall) of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
Voloshenkos appeal has made him a favorite with the fans. He has an ever present smile, and truly enjoys his time at and away from the rink. On opening night, he scored a hat trick, then scored another a few nights later. When asked what he thought made him successful, he replied, My partners on the line. They are very good and help me, he said, referring to linemates Erik Westrum and team captain Kirby Law.
Aeros coach Rob Daum is impressed with the young talent. Hes been pretty impressive, said Daum. Hes been leading our team in goals, which is not an easy thing to do. Hes been a streaky type of scorer. Hell score in bunches, then other nights, nothing happens for him, so he has to work on his consistency in his game so he can make some things happen more consistently. But he plays with two very good players (Westrum and Law), and the three of them work well together. They have an excellent chemistry and I think thats been a big part of Romans maturing.
Maturing? He has definitely overcome a lot of obstacles while here, but he still enjoys the typical teenage obsessions. Video games, like NFL football is a favorite. His team is the Philadelphia Eagles, where he is the quarterback, and currently has himself a record of 10-1. Not bad. He would love to be able to attend a Houston Texans football game, but his schedule, and theirs, has not worked out. Voloshenko has been given permission from the Minnesota Wild to play in the World Juniors, and hell leave this weekend for Vancouver for his second straight year in the Championships.
Another new obsession is cable TV, which he just had installed. He loves American TV, especially the music and sports channels. He enjoys listening to 50 Cent, rock and techno music.
There are things in Moscow that he does miss. In January, Voloshenko hopes that his girlfriend, Masha, will be able to come from a visit. She works in Moscow and doesnt have a lot of free time, he said.
For now, he is making the adjustments just fine, and he is enjoying every minute in the AHL.
Hes done incredibly well, said Daum. Hes adjusting well and has very good communications skills, considering the circumstances of his arrival. Hes an outgoing happy guy for lack of a better word. Hes enjoying life and hes doing his best to fit in to the culture that hes come to, and to our team and everything else. I have nothing but positive things to say about his play on the ice and his ability to adjust to all the things hes facing.
As for fitting in with his teammates, Clayton Stoner added, Hes a good guy, a lot of fun, and speaks great English for only being here a short time. Hes one of my better friends on the team.
Its all good, said Voloshenko with a smile. Its just all good.