Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Obey or pay

Goaltender Eddie Pasquale lives by two strict rules, knowing all too well that violators will be persecuted

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Eddie PASQUALE has been around long enough to understand this basic commandment about life as a goaltender:

Rule 1: Stop the puck.

Rule 2: Forget about everything else and remember Rule 1.

And so while it would be understandable if the St. John's IceCaps goaltender was letting his mind wander a bit these days and dreaming of soon pulling on Winnipeg Jet colours and skating into the crease in Montreal, Toronto or Boston, the 22-year-old just won't go there.

Here's why: When your gig is stopping pucks, any break in focus is often magnified by a red goal light flashing behind you. And a guy can go from prospect to suspect in a nanosecond.

"That's the way it is: You can have a good game and they love you," begins Pasquale in a telephone interview from St. John's. "And then you can have a couple of bad games and they hate you.

"That's pro hockey. Nobody's going to put their arm around you and baby you. We're all men. We know where we stand: If you're playing well you're going to get an opportunity. If you're not, well, then you've got to start playing better."

Pasquale has lived a bit of both this year through the first chunk of the American Hockey League schedule.

He admittedly fought the puck early in the season before a session with Jets goaltending coach Wade Flaherty helped make a few minor adjustments.

"I'm a big guy, so I take up a lot of the net," Pasquale said. "But it seemed like I was just overplaying situations. He told me to just relax, let my skill take over, that I'm here for a reason."

The results have been impressive. Even though the IceCaps have struggled, particularly of late, Pasquale's numbers have been dandy: He's got a 6-8-1 record, but sports a 2.45 goals against average, .924 save percentage and two shutouts.

In basic terms, he's gone from just a guy in the organization who was drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers regime, to legit prospect.

And a quick peek at the Jets' depth chart at the goaltender position screams out opportunity: Ondrej Pavelec is the No. 1 stopper, but his backup -- former New York Islander Al Montoya -- is on a one-year deal.

"I thought about all that in the off-season when they didn't have Pavs signed, with (Chris) Mason getting older and then they traded for (Jonas) Gustafsson from Toronto and didn't end up signing him," Pasquale said.

"But the thing with this business is things change all the time and so you can't look too far ahead. You've got to wait it out and when you get your opportunity, make the best of it.

"If the NHL started today there are guys here who would be going up. Every day you're battling for your job and to make it higher in the organization. At the end of the day, everybody here wants to play in the NHL, but if you think about it too much it affects the way you play.

"I don't try to look too far ahead. I have to live day to day in this sport."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait


EDDIE PASQUALE FILE

Position: goaltender

Born: Nov. 20, 1990, Toronto

Ht.: 6-3; Wt.: 210

Drafted: By the Atlanta Thrashers in the fourth round (117th overall) of the 2009 entry draft.

FYI: His cousin, Mike Rice, played LW in the OHL, at the University of Western Ontario and in Europe.

Quotable: "Being from Toronto, you're kind of forced to be a Leaf fan even if you don't want to be. I grew up watching Eddie Belfour and Cujo (Curtis Joseph) and idolized them because they were with the hometown team. Back then I was a Toronto fan. Not now, but back then I was."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 15, 2012 0

History

Updated on Monday, December 17, 2012 at 12:59 PM CST: Fix cutline. Add credit.

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