Ellsworth having Vezina-like season for Soo Indians

By Derek Berry
He might remind you of an Olie Kolzig or a Byron Dafoe and he’s having
one heck of a season in goal for the NAHL’s Soo Indians.

His name is Cam Ellsworth. Remember his name. He’s big (6′ 1″ 200
lbs., to be exact), strong and handles the puck with the finesse of a
fine-tuned NHL goaltender.

Soo Indians’ head coach Joe Shawhan, a former goalie himself, knew he
would have a solid netminder coming into this season and had very few
worries.

“He had a good year last year and he came in ready to play this year,”
says Shawhan. “He has played very consistently and that’s carried over
from what he did last year.”


A RELIABLE PRESENCE

This season, the all-star goalie has a 1.94 GAA with a .921 save
percentage, a 26-5 record and 5 shutouts at the halfway point.

Shawhan says Ellsworth has excellent work habits, that will carry him
far in the future.

“When we came into this season he quickly picked up on what he did the
year before,” says Shawhan. “He did the work that was necessary to do
and it wasn’t all that much. We knew he was going to be reliable coming
in.”

Shawhan says Ellsworth merely had to work on his stance and his
compactness in the net.

Ellsworth himself also knew what he had to do coming into this season,
which basically involved standing tall in the net and staying tough.
The skills were there and still are…this season was a matter of carrying
over the consistency.

“I knew we had a good team coming into the season,” said Ellsworth. “I
know I have to have a strong presence every night.”


ANOTHER SOO INDIANS’ ALL-STAR GOALIE

Joe Shawhan knows how to pick and develop goalies up in Sault Ste.
Marie. Just think of the names.

Bobby Revermann. Nathan Wheeler. Ryan Miller. Now, Ellsworth. Most,
if not all of them, were all-stars under the Shawhan regime.

Shawhan says he takes it for granted a little bit.

“Those guys were all great goalies for us,” says Shawhan. “Cam ranks
among those guys. Just like them, Cam can steal games for us…can
single-handedly win hockey games for us that help us stay at the top or
near the top of the standings.”

Ellsworth takes it all in stride along with his being named to the
all-star team for the recent game in St. Louis. He’s also gained a
wealth of experience from his former goalie/current head coach.

“I’ve learned a lot,” says Ellsworth. “This is the best hockey career
move I’ve made in coming here. It’s an honor to be named in the same
class of great goaltenders that have come through here.”

Like those other big-time Indians’ goalies, Ellsworth will (if not
already) have colleges knocking at his door. And college is certainly a
goal for the youngster.

But, he also knows there is a job to do first before heading off to the
next level.

“Obviously, we want to have a good second half,” says Ellsworth of
what’s to come. “Our goal at the beginning of the season was to finish
strong, and finish first. We’re tough at home and we want to continue
to be strong to get home ice (in the playoffs).”


INSIDE THE GOALIE’S MIND

Shawhan likes his goalies, knows how to work with them and likes them
kind of big too.

Ellsworth has those attributes, much like Ryan Miller before. “He
(Ellsworth) really takes up the net,” said Shawhan, referring to the
small space shooters have to get one by Ellsworth.

It’s surprising though, that Ellsworth really doesn’t have a favorite
professional goaltender. He says he does model his game after several
different types of pro goalies, but doesn’t like to pick one goalie and
copy off of him. He even wears an unusual number for a goalie – 17.

“I try not to model my game after one guy, because that can get you
picking up potential bad habits,” said Ellsworth. “All goalies have
different styles. I think I try to model the competitiveness of certain
goalies more than what they do.”

Ellsworth says if he had his choice he’d sit and watch Curtis Joseph of
Toronto duel Dominik Hasek of Buffalo. To him, that would be a fan’s
delight.


THE GAMEDAY ROUTINE

All goaltenders (and most players in sports on all levels) have a sort
of game day routine…something they do either for good luck or to keep
themselves occupied. Ellsworth’s routine mixes a little bit of thinking
about the night’s game, with some rest and relaxation.

“I usually get up around 10 a.m., eat breakfast, relax, eat again at 1
or 1:30 p.m. and then don’t eat again until after the game,” says
Ellsworth. “I make sure I get a nap in there too and get up around 4:30
p.m.”

Ellsworth also does something many goalies don’t always do. He goes on
the Web and checks the stats of the shooters he’ll be facing that
night. He’s seen most of them, but knowing what the statistics of the
various players are gives him a sense of who’ll be taking the brunt of
the shots at him.

The netminder says he doesn’t try to worry too much on game day or rush
to work for that matter. He likes to get there just in time, with his
game face on, ready to play.

“I’m one of the last guys to get to the rink and I like to go right to
work,” says Ellsworth. “I go over in my mind and with the coaches what
I want to do. I’ve come to enjoy things that way.”

Ellsworth says the best thing about right now, with the Indians, is
simply the team atmosphere that coach Shawhan fosters so well.

“A lot of my success is really because of the great team atmosphere
here,” says Ellsworth. “I owe it all to my teammates.”