Thunderbirds begin a new era in goal

Jul 25, 2012, 12:16 PM | Updated: 12:39 pm

By Andrew Eide

One of the challenges facing every junior hockey team is that when it develops a great player, the clock starts ticking. Unlike in the NHL, teams can’t just sign their best players to long-term contracts ensuring they’ll have them for their careers. In Seattle, the Thunderbirds said goodbye to one of the franchise’s best players in goalie Calvin Pickard at the end of last year. Now they have to usher in a new era of goaltending and someone to fill the rather large shadow Pickard cast.

In his time with Seattle Pickard became the Thunderbirds’ marquee player, got himself drafted and set the WHL record for saves. But time moves on and so will Pickard as he will begin his pro career with Colorado’s AHL affiliate. Replacing a player of that stature is easier said than done, but that is exactly what Seattle has to do this season.

General manager Russ Farwell and the Thunderbirds staff can’t afford to dwell on the past. As great as Pickard was for them, Farwell says “That calendar always turns over and we can’t look back and say ‘Oh boy I wish.'” The team wasted no time and made a move early in the offseason by picking up Brandon Glover from Calgary to be the No. 1 goalie.

Glover cost the Thunderbirds a third-round pick in next year’s Bantam Draft, and as a 20-year-old, Farwell expects him to take the majority of the load in net. Glover got into 39 games for the Hitmen last season and posted 3.11 goals against average. He also appeared in four playoff games and had a stellar .941 save percentage. Talking to people who covered Calgary last year Glover appears to be a real solid goaltender and should give Seattle some stability at the back end.

Cotton1
GM Russ Farwell says this is a big year for goaltender Daniel Cotton, who struggled in limited time last season. (Photo by Kyle Scholzen, Seattle Thunderbirds)

Daniel Cotton backed up Pickard last year and will be in the mix as camp opens, but Farwell says the team “just judged where Cotton got to last year and then (Justin) Myles suffered an injury in November and never played again, so we just weren’t comfortable enough going in without a more experienced guy.”

With the youth and struggles of Seattle’s defense last season, Farwell feels that Glover’s experience and age will help the team moving forward.

“We wanted that experience in goal. We’ve had it in the past and so we didn’t want to take a chance. We have a young group on defense and we like them, and we’d like to let them mature and grow up and that’s hard if you don’t have adequate goaltending,” Farwell said of the motivation to get an older player.

Playing behind Pickard, Cotton appeared in 17 games with Seattle last year and struggled in his limited time.

“I don’t think he took as much advantage of his chances as he might of and it’s a matter of if he takes a step and is real focused, goes after it, he could earn significantly more time,” Farwell said. “I think he’s a real good kid but it happened pretty fast for him last year. Maturity-wise this is a big year for him.”

Seattle will have two other young goaltenders in camp to compete with Cotton for the No. 2 position. Justin Myles, a 2010 bantam pick, was injured last year and missed the entire season. Farwell felt that Myles was perhaps their top prospect and if he’s healthy and cleared to play he will have a chance to earn a spot on the roster.

Another interesting goalie in the mix is Danny Mumaugh, who Seattle signed this summer. Mumaugh played in Tier 1 Midget last year for the Colorado Thunderbirds (nice name) and was 26-3-3 with 12 shutouts and a stellar 1.12 goals against. Those are pretty good numbers in any league, and while making the team at only 16 might be a long shot, Farwell thinks the young man is pretty impressive.

“He’s been training real hard. I know he’s a serious, serious kid,” Farwell said. “He was gung-ho and wanted to step into it.”

If Mumaugh comes into camp and is impressive don’t be surprised if Seattle takes him into the season as Glover’s backup. Farwell said that even with Glover as the starter they still have a desire to bring along another guy. The real battle in camp will be between Cotton, Mumaugh and if healthy, Myles.

There’s an old adage in sports that you never want to be the guy who has to replace a legend. In junior hockey someone inevitably has to step up in that role every year. For Seattle that task falls to Glover, but Farwell is not worried about him and the Pickard shadow.

“Hockey players are a pretty confident group and he’ll be coming in to stake out his own,” Farwell said. “He’s still got an eye on a career and will be coming in to make a statement as a goalie, and I don’t think he’s worried about that at all.”

Follow Andy on Twitter @andyeide

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