Frederic Cloutier was a free agent signee of the Minnesota Wild after a strong start with ECHL affiliate Louisiana IceGators in 2001. The 6’0” 185-pound netminder was 28-5-3 that year with the club, with a 1.84 GAA and a .945 save percentage. He was named the goaltender of the year rookie of the year, and league MVP for 2001-02.
But numbers like that are hard to duplicate. In 2002-03, Cloutier played 26 games with Louisiana and 12 with AHL affiliate Houston Aeros. This season he played 32 games for the IceGators, and 6 for the Aeros in the regular season. He had a 2.31 GAA in the ECHL, and a 2.84 GAA in the AHL. Cloutier, 22, just returned from Houston, as the Aeros were eliminated from the playoffs.
Hockey’s Future spoke to Cloutier following the IceGators’ 3-2 loss to the Gwinnett Gladiators in the Central Division Finals on Wednesday.
HF: You’ve had lots of accolades in the ECHL. What do you think the league has done for you in terms of development?
FC: First I think the organization here in Louisiana has been pretty good with me. Coach Farrish was very good with me, we’ve worked a lot together. We trust each other. It’s good when you know you can talk to the person when something isn’t going as well. He’s always been there for me. From that point it’s been a fun experience.
HF: What do you think your strengths are?
FC: Everything that’s close to the net. I’m a butterfly goalie so it’s pretty hard to get by me when the shooter is close. I’m a small goalie so my reflexes have to be good.
HF: What are you still working on in your game?
FC: Playing out of my net. Playing with the puck. It’s been one of my weaknesses and I’m going to work on that in the summer. During the season too, we work on that.
HF: You played 12 games in Houston last year and six this year (regular season). Can you compare the two years and how you felt you did?
FC: Last year I had a pretty good season over there. I broke my arm in March so I couldn’t make the playoff roster over there. It went well, just bad luck. This year I came in and we didn’t have the same kind of team, we were a little bit weaker. A lot of young guys on the team. It went well when I went for the second time. I played a couple games and got the OK for the playoffs.
HF: Minnesota’s system is pretty deep in goaltending. Does that get discouraging at all?
FC: No, it’s just a competition. You just have to work hard. You never know what can happen. Hopefully they see things in me and next year I’m redoing my contract so we’ll see what happens.
HF: Can you compare this year’s IceGators team to last year’s?
FC: Last year a lot of guys left after I left for Houston. This year I think we’re more competitive, more intense. Our defense is pretty strong, it’s one of our good points. We have a good team, we just have to make sure we press.
HF: You and Gustafson have platooned in net, a lot like Roloson and Fernandez with the Wild last year. How is your relationship?
FC: We’ve know each other for three years now. We worked together before. Last year we worked together in Houston. We play well when we’re together. It’s a little bit of competition, but it’s nothing that could hurt the chemistry of the team. We play hard and coach knows we’re both ready so it’s pretty easy.
HF: Do you hang out together off the ice?
FC: Well, we’re roommates so we kind of have to (laughing). No, he’s the kind of guy I would hang out with anyway. He’s a funny guy. It’s a good thing. We get along, that’s why they put us in the same room. It works.
HF: Your mask is really interesting. Can you describe what you put on it and why?
FC: On one side is Freddy Krueger. Since my name’s Frederic, that’s what the guys in Louisiana call me, Freddy. So I put that on one side, and on the other side is a fleur de lis, the symbol of the State of Louisiana. (On the chin) it says IceGators and Freddy Krueger scratches it. The guy who designed it thought of that.
HF: Your contract is up for renewal, but no matter where you end up, what’s your goal for next year?
FC: To make sure we go far in the playoffs. To make a good impression for everybody. We’ll see what happens. I know they wanted me to come here and play some games, so I came at the beginning of the season and played a lot of games. I went to Houston and played. We’ll see, I don’t know. I’m just concentrating on what’s going on right now.