The hottest issue swirling around the Barrie Colts right from the start of training camp has been who will be the number one goaltender. Nine games into the season and that question has yet to be answered.
The Colts are currently carrying three goaltenders; Alex Fotinos, Mackenzie Blackwood and Daniel Gibl, and the coaching staff is hoping one of them can take the reins and solidify themselves as the clear cut number one.
For now it’s all about getting each young netminder into some games and seeing what they can do. “We’re trying to give each guy some playing time; each guy has sat out a weekend so far,” Said Colts assistant coach and goaltending coach Mike Rosati, “We’re getting a good feel of what each guy can bring and how the team responds to them.”
Fotinos is the veteran of the trio and was supposed to take over in between the pipes after being Mathias Niederberger’s under study the past two seasons.
However just like a season ago, the 18 year old has struggled with consistency and has left the door wide open for one of the two rookie netminders to try and steal his job.
Fotinos was a healthy scratch for all three of the Colts games this past week and with three straight solid starts from Blackwood it seems he may now be the front runner.
“Nothing I can do about it, as a goalie you just have to be ready when you’re put in to play,” Said Fotinos, “At the end of the day it’s the coaches decision who he wants to play and I’m always ready when I get called on and I’m just waiting for my chance to get in there.”
The third year Colts goaltender was passed over in the June NHL draft but was invited to attend the Los Angeles Kings rookie camp. The experience there was a real eye opener for the Toronto native. “Just to see how hard their goalies work and what the expectations are to make that team really opened my eyes and showed me how hard I have to work to get to that next level.”
Blackwood has posted a 0-3-1 record but his record doesn’t reflect his play. The 16 year old has posted a respectable 2.41 GAA and a .902 save percentage but it’s been goal support that Blackwood has yet to receive.
In the four appearances Blackwood has made, the Colts have scored just six goals. Meanwhile Fotinos has a 4.10 GAA but is 3-0 and in his wins the Colts have found the back of the net 18 times.
Blackwood lost back to back games against a very good Oshawa Generals team both by the score of 2-1. Even though his team was only able to produce two goals for the netminder, Blackwood was still very critical of his own game and felt he could’ve done more to help his team win.
“It’s nice to have a couple starts under your belt but I want to start winning games for us and helping the boys put up points. Both goals I allowed tonight we’re stoppable” Said Blackwood after Thursday night’s 2-1 loss to the Generals.
Rosati feels that Blackwood has given his team a chance to win in every start and he really likes the Thunder Bay native’s style of play. “Mackenzie’s got the size factor and the luxury of being very mobile. A lot of bigger goalies are a little sluggish in the crease but Mackenzie has good crease mobility and he’s getting better and more poised with each start.”
With Blackwood and Fotinos both on the Colts playoff roster last season and with the new CHL rule that made this the final import draft where teams could draft a European goaltender, it was interesting to see the Colts draft Slovakian netminder Daniel Gibl with the 47th pick.
Gibl was the only goalie selected in the import draft and will be the last European goaltender ever drafted by a CHL team.
Rosati says the decision to draft Gibl was based purely at having depth at every position. “It’s like having a stable with horses, the more horses you have the more solid your stable is. We’re happy with Alex (Fotinos), we’re happy with Mackenzie (Blackwood) and now we have Daniel (Gibl) and that gives us a really solid crease and it gives us a little bit of a luxury of rotating guys around and competition doesn’t hurt anybody, it doesn’t hurt to come to the rink everyday and fight for your job and fight for your position and that should bring the best out of everybody.”
Gibl is winless in his first two starts and is still adjusting to the North American game. The Slovakian is happy and excited to be in Barrie and says the biggest difference between playing in Canada and Slovakia is the fans. “I really like it here because the fans are so excited and hockey is so popular and the level of this league is so good. I wanted to try something new and visit a new country and see a new hockey style.”
For Colts goaltending coach Mike Rosati, dealing with the language barrier has been a bit of an adjustment but he says Daniel is a student of the game and is very coachable. “It’s been great so far, he’s a great kid, and he’s always in a happy positive mood, he brings that to the rink every day. He’s a great teammate, he supports everybody whether he’s on the bench or in the stands he’s part of the team, he’s on board which is a huge factor.”
“There is a little bit of a language barrier with Daniel and I wonder if he understands everything sometimes because he just stands there and smiles and nods all the time. He’s not afraid to initiate contact if there’s a question in his head, he’ll call me ‘Mr. Mike’ and get me over to the side and we’ll go over it.”
Despite a crowded crease and battle for playing time; Fotinos, Blackwood and Gibl are all good friends and get along great. “Two great guys and we get along really well,” Said Fotinos, “Daniel is a little harder to communicate with his limited English but he’s a great guy, really funny but amongst us we have no animosity for each other, we’re all fighting for the same spot but away from the rink we’re all friends.”
The battle in the Colts crease will continue until one of the three can grab a hold of that number one job and with the team riding a five game losing streak, everyone is hoping it happens sooner rather than later.