Spotlight is on now on ICE Goaltenders

By Jeff Bromley

Spotlight is on now on ICE Goaltenders

Let’s face it. If you asked every Kootenay ICE fan, those in the administration and any local pundits and purveyors of comment, no one really had processed the realization that all-everything goalie Dan Blackburn wouldn’t be back between the pipes for the Kootenay ICE. ‘Oh he’ll impress them,’ said anyone and everyone. ‘But there’s no way that he’ll make the New York Rangers. Goalies don’t make the NHL at eighteen anymore.

Well, guess what? Someone forgot to relay that information to Dan Blackburn and the New York Rangers.

In the end, and for arguments sake we’ll assume that Blackburn is indeed not coming back anytime soon, it really didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Ranger’s goaltending situation wasn’t the deepest part of the organization. And if Blackburn played well enough in camp he would join the squad as the elder incumbents young apprentice. Ranger’s G.M. Glen Sather’s inability or unwillingness to address their depth at what most consider the most important position in the game all but assured Blackburn’s ascension into the NHL.

Needless to say it is all water under the proverbial bridge for the Kootenay ICE’ fortunes in the WHL and life must go on. But in their quest for their second WHL title in three years, it begs the obvious question. In Jeff Harvey and Bryan Bridges does Kootenay have the capability to compete with the big boys in their division in Kamloops and Kelowna? Never mind Red Deer, Portland, Spokane and Swift Current throughout the rest of the league. Without Dan Blackburn in the nets, are the Kootenay ICE a middle of the pack club or are they still a powerhouse?

All good questions. Now all we need are answers.

The emerging debate among the faithful also surrounds the ICE puck-stoppers. Who’s now the number one goaltender? Is it Jeff Harvey, who by is own admittance reported to camp somewhat out of shape more than likely expecting the job of back-up to Blackburn or number one in Blackburn’s absence as a fait accompli? Harvey’s two starts have been less than par although the last one against the Hurricanes the consensus was that the St. Albert, Alberta native was hung out to dry on most of the five goals that got by him.

The second option is of course Bryan Bridges. The rookie back-stopper, who doesn’t turn sixteen until the 27th of December has shone in three outings with two wins and a loss including a shutout of Tri-Cities and has been the surprise of the young season. Stop me if you’ve heard this before as this looks and sounds eerily like the situation in ICEland two years ago. The incumbent Clayton Pool graduates the season prior and in training camp everyone has given the starter’s job to air apparent B.J. Boxma with wonder-kid Dan Blackburn becoming the understudy as the back-up.

We all know how that one turned out.

If Blackburn’s absence is permanent, who will emerge as the number one netminder in the Key City? Harvey, Bridges or neither?

If there’s a controversy brewing in the bowels of the Rec Plex then nobody’s talking about as both Coach McGill and G.M. Jeff Chynoweth have flatly stated that no such controversy exists but rather the situation will sort itself out on it’s own.

And their right, it will. The only question now is how long will it take? The answer could be known as soon as the important weekend triumvirate of games is completed as the ICE face the Rockets and Blazers on the road Friday and Saturday, respectively, with the P.A. Raiders in town for an afternoon date on Thanksgiving Monday. With Bridges likely to get the start against the Rockets, his play could be the determinant on who takes the reigns as top banana between the pipes. What happens after that is anyone’s guess. Many pundits warn that the Kootenay ICE without Dan Blackburn is team that falls out of the upper echelon in the WHL. The proof of that statement will be in the pudding as one of either Bridges or Harvey must grab the reigns to backstop this club. The prospect of Blackburn not being in Cranbrook took everyone by surprise. The most surprised however could now be the two netminders looking to replace him.

Quick Hits – The first edition of the Red Line Report, a scouting report of players eligible for the 2002 NHL Draft came out this past week and two members of the local squad of made the list. The report, done by an independent scouting agency based in Lake Placid, New York has Kootenay d-men Aaron Rome at the 36th spot and Andy Thompson pegged at number 53. Hitting number one is highly-touted Medicine Hat Tiger d-man Jay Bouwmeester. Players from Europe, U.S. College and the junior ranks are included in the list… The ICE named their captain this past week and to no one’s surprise, Jason Jaffray was the overwhelmingly logical choice. Exuding all the characteristics that are shown by example in the way he plays, the captaincy was a natural progression for the Olds, Alta. product…..

Chuck Kobasew’s debut with Kootenay’s divisional rival, the Kelowna Rockets was somewhat reminiscent of Mike Comrie’s debut with Kootenay last season. Kobasew potted the hat-trick in Portland but the defense couldn’t hold as they blew a three-goal lead in the last ten minutes and lost 7-5 to the WinterHawks. Only difference is that unlike last season, the Rockets won’t be able to lose the scoring sensation to the pros until next year. When the Calgary Flames couldn’t sign the Osoyoos, B.C. native, they lost the right to recall him to the pros unless emergency conditions arise and, of course, they sign him to a contract. The Flames offered $2.9 million over three years where Kobasew was said to be looking for the rookie salary cap maximum of $3.5 over three years.