Pelham Panthers forward Cody Miskolczi. BILL POTRECZ

Cody Miskolczi showed up at training camp this season a changed man.

The 18-year-old forward for the Pelham Panthers decided it was time to tone down his game and start spending more time on the ice than in the penalty box.

“I just told myself I’m a third-year player now and I have to be more disciplined,” the Fort Erie native said. “[Hockey] is something I want to pursue so I need to actually be doing stuff out there and not messing around with needless penalties.”

Panthers coach Chris Lukey noticed the change right off the bat.

“Over the course of watching him the last two years, to me he is one of the most dramatically improved players, on and off the ice,” Lukey said. “Cody does play with an edge, and this year he’s managed to control his temper and control what he does on the ice, so he’s emerged as definite leader. He’s playing on the edge, and he’s not going over it. He’s playing a really disciplined, gritty game.”

Lukey said he didn’t say a word to his truculent winger about taking his level of intensity down a notch or two.

“I’ve spoken to the whole team about leadership,” Lukey said. “And I’ve spoken to the whole team about everybody stepping up and what we’re looking for, but at the same time I asked everybody to be a little grittier as well. He’s right on that edge and he’s playing a fine line. I’m extremely proud of him for maintaining his discipline and composure.”

Miskolczi played the 2019-20 season with Panthers and quickly established himself as an agitator with 77 minutes in penalties in 44 games.

That style was a continuation of his role in minor hockey.

“I’ve been like that in the past, the kind of guy to stand up for myself,” he said.

But a year of reflection due to the Covid pandemic has brought about change.

“Probably after my first year, during the exhibition games, I realized that have to calm down or else I’m not going to succeed in what I want to be,” he said. “It was time to play more controlled and more relaxed, but still on the edge.”

So far, Miskolczi’s new attitude has paid off. He has a goal, an assist, and only a single minor penalty in the Panthers’ first two games of the season.

“It’s exactly what I’m looking for from a veteran guy like him,” Lukey said. “He’s playing both sides and he plays the greedy game when he has to and he’s getting some goals so far.”

Miskolczi, whose older cousin Dakota was a former junior B player in Fort Erie and St. Catharines, has two years of junior eligibility remaining.

“I want to get an education out of hockey and just play as long as I can and potentially maybe pro in Europe or overseas,” he said.

The Panthers are off to a sluggish start, including a 4-0 loss in their home opener to Hamilton.

“We were a pretty high flying team in the pre-season but Jonah [Devereaux] is out for about another month,” Lukey said.

The Panthers also lost captain Devin Sanders, who is playing in Sweden this season.

“Those are two really big holes,” Lukey said. “So the style of game we were playing initially, I have to make adjustments and tweaks to the team that I have in front of me now. We realized we’ve got to make some adjustments and we’ve got to get stronger defensively and stronger in a defensive zone because we’re not the high-flying team that we had a month ago.”

The Panthers are the first team in the Golden Horseshoe Conference to install equipment for HockeyTV, a subscription-based service that permits fans to watch games online.

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