HERSHEY, Pa. — Who is Michal Neuvirth, you ask?
If you’re a member of the Manitoba Moose, how to beat the young Czech goaltender is the more appropriate question.
The 20-year-old Hershey Bears goaltender recorded his fourth shutout of the post-season as he underpinned his team’s 3-0 win over the Moose in Game 3 of the Calder Cup Final.
The clubs will have less than 24 hours turnaround prior to today’s Game 4 and the Moose will be well served by using that time to solve the Neuvirth puzzle.
"We need to get on top of him and keep shooting the puck. I think he got lucky on some of them and didn’t even see the puck," said Moose sniper Michael Grabner, who has two goals in the final, but like the rest of his team was stonewalled by Neuvirth’s 28-save performance. "You need the bounces. Their defence box out well. They let us take the shot from out wide and it’s tough to beat a goalie in this league from far out. We need to crash the net and get on loose pucks."
Neuvirth spent a good chunk of the regular season in the ECHL before stepping into the Bears net in March and taking over the No. 1 job. He’s been brilliant in the post-season and now owns a 145 record to go with a 2.11 goalsagainst average and .926 save percentage.
"I feel good. The guys are playing well in front of me. It’s a team effort. I felt good in Game 2 but I didn’t get the bounces. But I got them tonight and you need them to win a hockey game," said Neuvirth.
Bears coach Bob Woods says his young goalie doesn’t rattle.
"He’s so calm. He doesn’t show much emotion until we get him inside the room and then he lets loose a little bit," said Woods, surrounded by Washington Capitals brass inside his office after the win. "Some nights you get that feeling from him that he’s going to be tough to beat and that was the case prior to this game. I wouldn’t say he stole the game but he won the game. He prevented them from stealing the momentum. He made all the saves, but more importantly he made the big ones when they were needed."
Manitoba’s leading scorer and offensive key Jason Krog agreed the Moose will need to score early in Game 4 to break Neuvirth’s spell.
"He played well, but at the same time I think we made it easy for him. He saw a lot of the shots and we weren’t able to get any rebounds. A top goalie in this league is going to stop most of the first shots when he gets a good look at them," said Krog.