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Not your average rookies

by Josh Fisher || AHL On The Beat Archive

Down the stretch to the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs the Texas Stars were certain of a veteran presence in net with Brent Krahn manning the crease. In the case of an injury, Matt Climie was waiting in the wings to carry the load and he did when Krahn suffered an injury in the second round, carrying the Stars to the Calder Cup Finals.

Texas won’t have a goalie with a lot of playoff experience this spring. As the team battles for positioning in the log-jammed West Division, two AHL rookies lead the way in between the posts for the Stars in Richard Bachman and Tyler Beskorowany.

“Coming out of the all-star break, we all talked about it in our locker room that playoffs were essentially starting right away,” said Bachman. “With our division being as tight as it has been, we know every game from here on out counts. We have taken that approach and we plan on running with it into the spring. We feel like it is a win-or-go-home scenario for everyone in the division. We have to show up and be ready to go.”

If the Stars plan on defending their 2010 Western Conference championship, they will need their young goalies to carry the load. Bachman has quietly put together an impressive first full season in theAmerican Hockey League, ranking in the top 10 of the AHL for goals-against average and save percentage. Beskorowany has also proved potent in the crease for Texas, putting up similar numbers in his first full season with the team.

“The biggest thing with goaltenders as you head down the stretch is consistency,” said Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan. “You need your goalies to have the ability to make the big save when you need it and not let any soft goals in at crucial times. With teams playing so tight, it’s not as important for a goalie to just outright win you a game, but to give you that big save when you need it.”

Bachman, who played in seven games with Texas in 2009-10 and 35 with Idaho of the ECHL, has been thrown into the number one spot due to an injury to Krahn.

“You hate to see guys go down with an injury,” explained Bachman, a Colorado College product. “For me, it turned into a major opportunity to play a bunch of games in a row and find my rhythm. You try not to think about it too much, take it one game at a time and hope things go well for you. I’ve just been trying to play hard and have fun. It’s been a great experience.”

According to his coach, the experience of moving his way up through the Dallas Stars’ system has helped him develop.

“I’m not surprised by his success,” replied the Stars’ second-year bench boss. “If you look back at what he did last year in Idaho, he has gone through the development process properly. He got a year under his belt as a pro and saw a lot of ice time. He also got into a handful of games with Texas and carried the ball for us at times.

“This year, he was going to be eased into the role of the AHL and he ended up getting thrown into it due to an injury and he responded well. Dallas has a history of doing that with some of their goalies that you see in the NHL now in guys like Mike Smith and Dan Ellis.”

Bachman already has a taste of the NHL, which came in early December after Dallas recalled him to back up Andrew Raycroft after Kari Lehtonen went down with an injury. He made his NHL debut for Dallas in Phoenix on Dec. 11, turning aside four shots in nine minutes of relief work.

“It was great to see what that next level is like,” said the 23-year-old Bachman. “It inspired me to work harder and develop myself to earn that chance again.”

Bachman’s NHL opportunity opened up Beskorowany’s chance to shine in Cedar Park. From Dec. 8-14, the 20-year-old rookie made five starts in seven days. After a rough game at Rockford in which the IceHogs tagged him for seven goals, Beskorowany turned the tables. He posted a 1.85 goals-against average and stopped 202 of 213 shots (.948) in his next six games (4-2-0).

“I had to re-evaluate the way I prepare for a game,” explained Beskorowany, who was Dallas’s second-round draft pick in 2008 (59th overall). “I have studied Bachman quite a bit and learned a lot from him about the way to prepare. It has shown me a different game.

“After Rockford, I looked at myself and thought it’s time to be a pro and do things right. I know I still have a lot to learn and I am still young. It was a good lesson for me to learn. Going into Grand Rapids the next night and then on to Milwaukee for my first AHL win helped me rebound.”

Bachman and Beskorowany have shown they can carry the load for the Texas Stars down the stretch, and their head coach believes a young goaltender can potentially help the team make a serious playoff run.

“Sometimes young goalies struggle with consistency, but at the same time they can be streaky,” said Gulutzan. “If you look back at the performances by rookies in the playoffs like Patrick Roy and Steve Penney [with the Montreal Canadiens], you will see it’s possible. It was clear in last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs with Chicago and Philadelphia.

“At the end of the day, it’s the goalie that is consistent that really defines a good playoff goalie. Young guys can get on a roll and sometimes you can ride that in the playoffs.”

If these youngsters can play well, look for the Stars to return to the Calder Cup Playoffs to defend their Western Conference crown.