IceCaps name Pasquale as starting goalie against Syracuse Crunch
St. John’s IceCaps’ goalie Eddie Pasquale works with the fitLight Trainer system outside the team’s dressing room at Mile One Centre on Tuesday. Pasquale will be the starting goaltender for the IceCaps when they begin their first-round AHL playoff series in Syracuse against the Crunch. The system, developed by a former Olympic handball player from Denmark, was introduced to Pasquale and fellow netminder by St. John’s goaltending coach Rick St. Croix. It uses a wireless controller and eight LED lights as targets for an athlete to activate or deactivate in a training routine designed to improve hand/eye co-ordination, strength and conditioning and rehabilitation from injury. The lights, which can be mounted on floors or walls, are deactivated by use of hands, feet, the head or racquets, depending on the athlete’s sport. — Photo by Gary /The Telegram
Eddie Pasquale’s timing is excellent and his ability to change directions is remarkable.
And that’s just when it comes to his choice of a favourite goaltender.
“I’m following the Rangers these day. I’m a big (Henrik) Lundqvist fan,” said the St. John’s IceCaps’ netminder when asked about his NHL who-to-follow list.
Lundqvist sports a 1.66 goals-against average and .950 save percentage through the first three games of New York’s first-round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators. Much better numbers than those of the Vancouver Canucks ’Roberto Luongo (3.59, .891), who once was admired by Pasquale, but not so much these days.
“Not after his playoffs last year,” said Pasquale, who for the record, grew up a Toronto Maple Leafs fan and counted Curtis Joseph and Ed Belfour as his childhood heroes.
But it’s not as if Pasquale is paying particularly close attention to the Stanley Cup playoffs, monitoring the performances and dissecting the skills of Lundqvist et al. Part of that may be a desire to avoid watching the train wrecks that have been Luongo and the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Marc-Andre Fleury (let’s face it, witnessing the failures and foibles of fellow tradesmen can be spirit-sapping). Mostly, though, it’s because he’s otherwise pre-occupied.
“I’m actually trying not to watch too much hockey. I’m busy enough with it at the rink these days,” said the 21 year-old Toronto native, who will get the start Friday as the IceCaps open up the American Hockey League playoffs in Syracuse, N.Y., against the Crunch.
It wouldn’t have been a total shocker if David Aebischer — he of six NHL seasons and a Stanley Cup ring — had been given the Game 1 nod. But Pasquale has started the majority of games in the last couple of months and IceCaps’ head coach Keith McCambridge says the needle indicating a playoff starter has been leaning Pasquale’s way for while.
“It had been leading up to that,” said McCambridge of his choice. “Pasquale has been playing some really strong hockey down the stretch. He’s made the saves he’s need to make.
“I can look back over the season and there’s quite a few games where he’s been the difference for us.”
In the early part of the campaign, there was little chance for Pasquale to be a difference maker. With Aebischer and Peter Mannino on the roster, he only played once in the first 10 games and didn’t even dress as the backup in a half-dozen of those contests. It wasn’t until Mannino was recalled to Winnipeg that Pasquale saw more regular duty, ringing up five straight wins in the early part of November. But when Mannino returned from the Jets, it was back to on-and-off work. Mostly off. In December, Pasquale played just three games and even after Mannino was reassigned to the ECHL, had to bide his time while recovering from an injury in early January.
But since mid-January, Pasquale has had the look — and numbers — of a No. 1 goalie. He’s appeared in more than two-thirds (27 of 39) of the IceCaps’ games since Jan. 14, going 16-8-1 with a 2.15 GAA in that stretch. Overall this season, Pasquale was 23-12-1 with a 2.41 GAA and four shutouts, all of which came since the New Year.
“He’s made some really good strides. He weathered the three-goalie situation and came out really well ... he proved himself,” said McCambridge.
Pasquale can’t say he wasn’t frustrated by the situation early on. He can say that he found ways to keep frustration from bubbling over the edge of the pot.
One was too draw on past experience: “I went through it last year in Chicago (with the AHL) Wolves,” he said. “I was a third goalie who wasn’t supposed to be there at all.”
Another was the tried-and-true method of talking with his parents.
Yet another was to listen to his inner voice even when what it told him ran opposite to well-meant advice.
“I have an agent who was saying ‘Why don’t I talk to management to see if you can go down to the East Coast league to play a couple of games?,’” said Pasquale looking back at his inactive period.
“I said ‘No. It’s a good organization and a good team,’ and I figured that once I got that chance, I could run with it.
“I struggled for a while, but they kept giving me the opportunity and eventually, it all came together.”
He’s also benefitted from the presence of the 33-year-old Aebischer, who has pushed him when required and supported him when needed.
“He’s a really good guy, besides the fact that he’s already had a long NHL career and has won a Stanley Cup,” said Pasquale. “A the end of my career, if I can look back and say I had a career like that, I’d be pretty happy.
“He’s been good to me ... helped me out a lot. He knows I’m a young guy and he’s little bit older (these words were followed by a big gapped-tooth, impish smile.)
“We’re good buddies. He’s been there for me and I’m there for him.”
Pasquale hasn’t played in the playoffs as a professional, but did join the Wolves in the spring of 2010 after his junior career in the OHL concluded with a six-game playoff run (2.33. .941) with the Saginaw Spirit.
“I got to watch as they (the Wolves) went to the division final, so I think I have a feel for it,” said Pasquale.
“It’s different. Everything is under the microscope. One bad goal can switch a series. There’s a lot more pressure, a lot more stress.
“At the same time, I think the best way to deal with it is to do the same as I did throughout the season, by taking things day-by-day, game-by-game.
“I don’t really know any other way.”