One moment, you’re seated comfortably at the end of the bench in a baseball cap.
The next, you’re frantically scrambling for your goalie gear, preparing to stare down slap shots.
Such is the life of a backup netminder, a job description which demands an ability to go from relative inactivity to game-ready in a hurry.
J.P. Lamoureux executed that role to perfection for the Abbotsford Heat on Saturday. He entered at 6:31 of the second period, coming on in relief of Leland Irving with the Heat trailing 2-0 to the Adirondack Phantoms. He left having stopped every shot he faced – all 12 in regulation and overtime, and all five in the shootout as Abbotsford rallied for a 3-2 victory.
“My role is to be prepared to be thrown into the fire,” Lamoureux said, reflecting on his flawless performance out of the bullpen. “I try to prepare every game as if I’m starting, and then if you get the tap on the shoulder halfway through the period or something, you get back to your in-game routine and you’re mentally sharp. I’m fairly confident in those situations.”
Saturday’s victory clinched a weekend sweep for the Heat, who had previously posted a matching 3-2 shootout victory over the Phantoms on Friday.
Lamoureux was recalled from the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies last Friday after regular backup Matt Keetley suffered a lower-body injury at Thursday’s practice. When he arrived, the Heat were in the throes of a seven-game losing streak. Following the weekend wins, Lamoureux said on Monday that the mood in the dressing room was noticeably more upbeat.
“We get to have that good feeling going into a long week of practice before our next game (Friday vs. Toronto),” he said. “I think that’s really important – that we as a collective group are feeling positive and confident going into the weekend.
STARTS MUST IMPROVE
Saturday’s slow start was hardly an anomaly for the Heat this season.
Abbotsford’s offence has been significantly less productive in the opening frame – the Heat have scored just 19 first-period goals, compared to 30 in the second and 29 in the third.
In terms of goals-against, the Heat have been relatively stable on a period-to-period basis, allowing 32 in the first, 35 in the second, 36 in the third.
“It’s about doing a better job preparing to start games, and that’s what we’re focusing on this week,” Playfair said following Monday’s practice.
“The biggest thing for us right now is, we’ve got to do a much better job on the forecheck and a lot better job of creating scoring chances to the net. The last 10-game segment, when you look at it, we scored 0.9 goals (per game) five-on-five, and we gave up 1.4. Our ability to defend and our ability keep pucks out of the net is fine.
“Our mindset’s got to be a lot more aggressive on the forecheck.”
• Power skating guru Barry Karn and Calgary Flames pro scout Ron Sutter ran Heat practice on Monday.
• Gaelan Patterson, recovering from a concussion, wore a yellow non-contact jersey at practice. Playfair is hopeful the rookie centre will be available for Friday’s game, but he was quick to note that recovery timelines are always in flux.
“It seems like they’re always further away than I wish they were,” he said with a wry grin. “It’s like driving towards a mountain – it always seems like it’s getting further away.”
• Keetley was slated to undergo an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of his injury.
• Former Heat forward J.D. Watt, who had his contract terminated by the NHL parent Flames last week after requesting a change of scenery, has signed a player tryout contract (PTO) with the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage.
• The Flames recalled defenceman Brendan Mikkelson on Sunday. He’d been with the Heat on a conditioning stint, posting one assist in four games last week.