Canadian Junior Goaltending Situation Established

By Aaron Vickers

Leclaire On The Roster, Bendera Left Off

The backend will be strong come Christmas for the Canadian World Juniors with strong defense. Their goaltending wont be too shabby either. Saturday morning the Canadian Junior Hockey squad made their final cuts, which involved releasing two goaltenders. One of which was Blue Jacket prospect Shane Bendera.

The release of Red Deer Rebel goalie Shane Bendera and Ray Emery of the SOO Greyhounds left two QMJHL goaltenders to tend the pipes in the Czech Republic; Olivier Michaud and future teammate of Bendera, Pascal Leclaire. Many had thought that the play of Shane Bendera would measure a CBJ duo in net of Leclaire/Bendera, but that will obviously not be the case.

“I’m a little disappointed, but not mad,” Bendera said, “It was pretty hard last night. I dont think any of us(goaltenders) slept. We knew two goalies were getting cut so it’s pretty hard.” Speculation was that Bendera gave up too many rebounds, something the Canadian Junior brass did not seem to take too kindly to.

That leaves Pascal Leclaire as the sole representative for the Columbus Blue Jackets organization after Bendera, and defensemen Aaron Johnson and Cole Jarrett were released. Pascal Leclaire played his way onto the squad, displaying the skills that made him the top goalie selected in the 2001 draft. His play may very well warrent him the starting role at the World Junior Olympics.

“If I get the chance to be No. 1, I want to bring back the gold,” said Leclaire. “Like all those guys, (Mathieu) Garon, (Jose) Theodore, (Roberto) Luongo, they’re all great goalies and for sure it would be great to be part of that list.” Leclaire has the inside track to being named the clubs #1 starter. Compared to Michaud’s stats in the Q, Leclaire looks to be outclassed. Michaud’s GAA for example is a full 1.00 lower than Leclaire, but Leclaire has demonstrated time and time again that he is a big-game goaltender. More specifically on Leclaire’s resume was his performance for the Halifax Mooseheads in the 2000 Memorial Cup and the Team Canada Under 18 teams Gold Medal performance.

Leclaire continues to keep his composure, refusing to beocme stressed about the situation. “It’s been a dream of mine to play for Team Canada,” he said “I’ve been watching it since I was four or five years old. That’s what drives me.”

Quotes taken from the Canadian Press