Goaltender plot thickens; ICE trade for Kolewaski

By Jeff Bromley

Goaltender plot thickens; ICE trade for Kolewaski

Ever since the New York Rangers decided that they were keeping standout goaltender Dan Blackburn on their NHL roster, the goaltending pendulum for the Kootenay ICE has been swinging back and forth between Jeff Harvey and rookie Bryan Bridges.

That pendulum just added another direction for it to swing.

The Kootenay ICE decided to add some depth to their goaltending department by acquiring Tony Kolewaski in a trade with the Saskatoon Blades on Thursday that saw the ever popular ‘future considerations’ go the other way. It was a move that Kootenay ICE G.M. Jeff Chynoweth says can be best construed as both a reflection on the current goaltending situation with the ICE and as an insurance policy. “I think it’s a little bit of both,” said Chynoweth. “You look at our record (6-7-2), we’re giving up less than 25 shots a game which is pretty impressive for Major Junior hockey.”

“Goaltending is such a key part and not to place all the blame on the goaltenders but at times this year it’s been a little weak.”

Weak, inconsistent, inexperienced call it what you want. The pleasant surprise of the play of rookie Bryan Bridges aside, the familiar rant throughout the corridors of the Rec/Plex all season long had a common ring to them – the goaltending, or lack thereof. After being treated to the stellar netminding of Dan Blackburn for the past two seasons, perhaps the ICE faithful were just spoiled. At any rate Chynoweth felt that something had to be done. “We felt this was an opportunity to get a look-see,” he said. “He’s a goaltender that’s played in the league with 46 games of experience and beat us 2-1 last season in Saskatoon with Mike Comrie in the lineup. He comes to us on a tryout basis to see if there’s anything that can be done to improve it.”

Kolewaski had actually been obtained by the Spokane Chiefs earlier in the year but was subsequently released this week when the Chiefs decided to go in a different direction and obtained Curtis Darling from the Portland WinterHawks. Kolewaski’s rights then reverted back to the Saskatoon Blades where he spent last season as a backup. First to Cranbrook native Cam Ondrik and then to Michael Garnett after he was obtained a trade with the Red Deer Rebels.

Needless to say, Kolewaski was appreciative of the prospect of getting his WHL career back on track again. “I’m excited,” said the nineteen-yr-old Calgary native. “The opportunity to come to a team like this with a great history and great bunch of guys in the dressing room, I’m looking forward to a great year.”

Picked up by Spokane with expectations of the number one spot with the Chiefs, things didn’t really go according to the plan. The Chiefs backup last season, Barry Brust emerged as a top netminder early in the season and then before Spokane’s third game of the season, Kolewaski dislocated his finger that shelved the back-stopper for two weeks. A golden opportunity seemed just to slip away. Still, Kolewaski’s not bitter about the release from the Chiefs. “It’s just the way hockey goes sometimes,” said Kolewaski. “I had the opportunity and it just didn’t turn out. You just go on.

“Now I’m here and we’ll just go from there.” Kolewaski also knows that he’s not going to be handed the goaltending duties. There’s still the matter of incumbents Jeff Harvey and Bryan Bridges, who might have something to say about it. “There’s going to be a lot of competitive attitude out there,” said Kolewaski. “We just going to have to battle it out to see who gets to play and whatever happens, happens.”

Three goaltenders, two roster spots and carrying three goalies is something the club isn’t likely to continue with for very long. “No question about it, it’s three goalies for now,” said Chynoweth. “We’ll go with this and monitor it and hopefully within the next ten days we’ll have a decision one way or the other.”

Broken ICE – The club is also battling through its share of injuries on top of the ones suffered by Jarret Stoll and Marek Svatos. Forward Steve Makway is out 4-6 weeks due to a broken bone in his hand suffered in the second fight of the night against Jack ‘The Beast’ Redlick of the Vancouver Giants in last Tuesday’s 6-1 win in Vancouver. Shaun Norrie also suffered a knee injury in the same game and will be out for 1-2 weeks . . . In the road to recovery department, Jarret Stoll injury is healing nicely and depending on who you talk to, will be back anywhere from one week to three. Stoll is skating and shooting again in practice and said at Thursday’s that he could play in a week. ICE G.M. Chynoweth however begs to differ and suggests it will be another three weeks before Stoll is back in the lineup . . .

Marek Svatos is being fitted for a special brace for his dislocated shoulder by the Colorado Avalanche – the club that drafted him last year. The brace is the same one that Peter Forsberg wore when he suffered the same injury. Svatos is expected back in three weeks . . . It was also announced Thursday that the Seattle Thunderbirds traded defenseman/forward Igor Agarunov to the Kootenay Ice for future considerations. The second-year T-bird, from North Delta, B.C., scored three goals and an assist last season as a forward.