Tanner Richard  remembers the view of the bench as much as the goal.
After accepting a pass from Cedric Paquette  on a 2-on-1 and burying it for his first professional goal last month, the Syracuse Crunch center felt joy and relief. It took 46 games, but the drought was over.
“It definitely took a while - a lot longer than I hoped for,” Richard said. “It was pretty special for me, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team so excited for a guy like that. After the first 20 games, everyone was pulling for me and trying to get me that goal.”
Like many players, Richard’s rookie season has been full of firsts.
The Tampa Bay Lightning’s third-rounder in 2012 registered his first multi-point game with a pair of assists against Hershey Jan. 17, and notched three primary assists a little more than a week later against Springfield.
The flashes of the player that tallied 118 points over 106 games during his two years with the Guelph Storm in junior are becoming more and more regular.
“I think I’ve been on more than I’m off,” Richard said. “But I have to be on all the time. You can’t take days off in this league. If you take days off, you wind up in the stands.”
Richard’s first time as a healthy scratch came Dec. 31 against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The wake-up call worked, and the 20-year-old hasn’t sat out since.
“I had a bad game and coach thought I wasn’t battling hard enough,” Richard said. “So he put me up in the stands to let me know that’s not how it works here.”
“He’s got to be more consistent with his play,” said Crunch coach Rob Zettler. “He has to have more tenacity in his play, and make quicker decisions with the puck.”
Richard’s point production has increased since the beginning of the calendar year. He totaled five assists in his first 30 games, but has one goal and six helpers in his last 18 games.
“The first couple games of the season until Christmas and stuff there’s always new situations coming,” Richard said. “The second half of the season you remember what you did in those situations, and if you did something wrong, what you took from it.”
Richard knows there is still plenty of work to be done. That includes working on his skating, getting stronger, and being more consistent with his play.
“He’s got to bring it every day,” Zettler said. “He’s not a big guy, so he’s got to figure out in the corners he doesn’t have much time to make plays. He has to make them quicker to be successful.”
At 6-foot, 187 pounds, Richard knows the work isn’t limited to just during the season.
“I have to have a really good summer in the gym and get a lot stronger,” Richard said. “That’s the next step for me.”