Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bisons goalie cuts class after surprise call-up from Jets

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THERE are many clever and unique ways to ditch class -- it's almost a science unto itself -- but Joe Caligiuri may have just earned a spot on the dean's list with one of the most unusual excuses of all time.

(Note to his professor: it's all legit, too).

'Hey Joe, I know you have that geography class today, but the Jets are on the line and they need a goaltender...'

And so it went Tuesday morning for Caligiuri, the 22-year-old star goaltender with the University of Manitoba Bisons who got a call from his sister Christina -- a communications coordinator with the Jets -- asking if he'd be available to work at practice, as veteran Chris Mason had to leave to be with his expectant wife.

"It was a dream growing up to play at this level and just to have the chance to do it for a day was a lot of fun," said Caligiuri while peeling off his equipment following Tuesday's session.

"I would obviously do this any day they asked me to do it. So, if they ever need this again, I'll be here for sure."

Caligiuri, 22, is on a dandy little run here. Just last week he earned CIS, Canada West and Bison Sports Athlete of the Week honours after kicking out all 46 shots in a pair of 2-0 shutouts over the University of Calgary Dinos.

Now, this wasn't the first time Caligiuri had been summoned -- he filled in a couple of times for the Manitoba Moose during the 2009-10 season.

But it's a little different stepping onto the ice to face shots from the likes of Dustin Byfuglien, Zach Bogosian, Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little.

"Little and Ladd probably scored on me the most. Little was scoring at will," he said with a grin. "I made some stops... obviously if you're in there long enough a few are going to hit you.

"They're fast and they can shoot the puck. The biggest thing is their releases. Obviously their shots are harder, but they get it off way quicker and so you have to be ready at all times. That's a big difference and, obviously, the size of the players. With traffic in front of the net everyone is 6-2 to 6-5 and it's tough to see through bodies.

"It was good to see what the best players in the world are like," Caligiuri added. "The guys were all really nice to me."

Caligiuri's work wasn't complete after the morning session, however. He was heading back to the U of M campus for an afternoon Bison practice. The Bisons are on the road again this weekend in Edmonton against the University of Alberta, the top-ranked team in Canada West.

Jets head coach Claude Noel said he expects Mason to be back at work -- he and his wife are celebrating the birth of their second daughter -- but if he isn't available, the team may have to call up a netminder from St. John's.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 12, 2011 C3

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