Goaltending trio backstopping Thunder
Hockey goaltending tandems usually follow a pattern: a seasoned veteran backup by a fresh rookie. The Airdrie Thunder bucked the trend this season and have three new players minding the net night after night.
The team began the season with Kade Taplin as the starter and Brett Monkman as his backup, but when Taplin was injured early in November, James Fisk was brought in and he and Monkman have split the netminder duties in the last month of 2012.
All three are fresh out of midget, but they have a lot in common. All three were born and raised in Airdrie, so the familiarity with each other was established before any of them arrived to camp. Monkman and Taplin played together with the midget AA Lightning for a few games last season while Fisk and Monkman went to school together.
All of these factors have helped keep the friendly competition up as the season’s gone on.
“I had a lot of confidence in both of us,” Monkman said of him and Taplin starting with the team in September.
Many of the new skaters have found the pace of Junior B a bit of an adjustment coming out of midget and the same can be said for the goalies.
“It’s a big change from last year,” Monkman said.
“It’s a lot faster and a lot rougher. The shots are a lot harder and there’s more passing.”
While he said Monkman struggled early in the season, Thunder head coach Cam Aplin said his improvement over the past three months has been evident thanks to his work ethic.
“Coming out of Tier I and making our hockey club says a lot about that,” Aplin said. “We’ve been going with James more lately, but Brett’s had a real positive attitude. He’s a real team guy and he’s improved all the way through. He was in tough to make the team, but he’s been playing better and better.”
Fisk joined the team midway through the first half of the season after Taplin was injured and said he had prepared all summer for the chance to join the Thunder’s roster and be ready for the jump up to junior.
“It’s a lot more fun,” he said. “I fell my games elevated a lot and the skill level of the guys helps a lot, too. You have to battle a bit harder. You want to show you deserve a spot.”
“He’s big (6’0”), he covers a ton of net and he anticipates the play well,” Aplin said of Fisk, who has started in nine games for the Thunder and has a 4-4-1 record. “He’s played extremely well for the us. He’s fit right in. His game was good right away and he got some early confidence, which isn’t easy when you’re coming in during the middle of the season. It looks like it’s been an easy adjustment for him.”
Aplin said Tapin will return to action when the season resumes after Christmas in January, but the team will retain all three of the goaltenders.
“When you have three quality goaltenders, it does create a bit of a problem,” he said.
“We’ve been dealt these circumstances and we’re already well into the season, so there will be limited ice time, but they’ll all get practice time.”