CEDAR PARK — Most wouldn’t consider Texas Stars defenseman Cameron Gaunce an enforcer.
He’s been in four fights this season, which doesn’t even crack the top 100 for individual players in the 30-team American Hockey League.
But on a team with a league-low 21 fights — the fewest in the AHL since the 2008-09 Grand Rapids Griffins had 20 bouts — Gaunce is the closest the thing the Stars have to a physical equalizer on the ice.
“I never had to play the enforcer role, and I still wouldn’t consider myself that here,” Gaunce said. “But I always kind of had that to my game.”
All of Gaunce’s bouts have come since Dec. 26 and each has been for the “right reasons.”
Three have come against opponents who recently laid a questionable hit on a Stars player. The fourth was an attempt to fire up his team after it allowed back-to-back goals last week against the Rockford IceHogs.
Gaunce has been given the green light by Stars coach Derek Laxdal to drop the gloves. Former Stars coach Willie Desjardins kept his fisticuffs in check the past two seasons, when the 6-1, 203-pound defenseman fought just three times.
“He kind of asked me whenever I would do it, ‘How does that help us win?’” Gaunce said. “While with this team, this season, I think (the fights) have helped us win.
“I enjoy it, I enjoy being able to show my teammates I’m there for them, and let some steam off from time-to-time,” Gaunce continued. “I had started to take it out, but I think adding some of that physicality to my game added back a dimension … I think coach Laxdal and (assistant) coach (Karl) Taylor kind of pushed that.”
It’s also seemingly helped Gaunce’s all-around performance.
Before his first fight, Gaunce had only two points and was minus-5 in 28 games. Since that bout with San Antonio Rampage forward Garrett Wilson, Gaunce has three goals, seven assists and has improved his plus-minus to a positive-8 in 36 games.