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This article was published 23/2/2017 (1674 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It’s not supposed to be this easy.
But goalie Jamie Phillips certainly made it look that way as he made the jump from college hockey last fall — and immediately rattled off 10 straight wins to begin his professional career.
Granted, the 2012 seventh-round draft pick of the Winnipeg Jets was in net for the Tulsa Oilers of the ECHL, a full two levels below the NHL. But it was still an impressive showing that quickly opened some eyes and earned him an invite to be the starting goalie in the league’s all-star game last month.
"Any time a team can start off really hot, you can’t really beat that," Phillips, 23, said this week.
"Any time you’re an all-star, no matter what level hockey or sport you play, it’s a good achievement."
Phillips is now hoping to make a similar strong impression after being promoted to the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League. A spot opened up for him in mid-January when the Jets called up Ondrej Pavelec from the Moose and decided to go with a three-goaltender system for the foreseeable future.
In the nearly five weeks since he arrived in Winnipeg, Phillips has made just two appearances in the Moose net. He gave up five goals in his only start, a 5-4 loss to the San Jose Barracuda, on Feb. 4. A few games later, Phillips came in for a period of mop-up duty after starter Eric Comrie was pulled.
The organization is clearly trying to break Phillips in slowly, especially on a Moose team that has struggled of late and often leaves its netminder hung out to dry. Plus, Comrie has handled the increased workload well, with occasional flashes of brilliance.
That’s relegated Phillips to backup duty. And while it may be a cliché, Phillips says he’s just happy to be here.
"Whatever my role is, obviously only one goalie can play every night. If my role is to start, I’ll play the best I can. If my role is to support Eric, I’ll just go do that, just make sure guys are happy, take extra shots after practice," said Phillips, who was born in Caledonia, Ont.
Phillips had a stellar four years playing college hockey with Michigan Tech. He set several records, including most shutouts in school history. He was also nominated for the most outstanding goaltender award in the NCAA following his 2014-15 season.
He then had a strong first training camp with the Jets last fall, but was sent to the ECHL with Comrie and Pavelec ahead of him on the organizational depth chart and occupying the Moose net.
"My personal expectations were to play as many games as I could and play as well as I could. Simple as that. I didn’t really know what to expect, where I was going to be, if it would be the AHL or the East Coast. Obviously, I got sent down right away and so I just tried to do my best, play well and work my way back up," Phillips said. "I definitely knew (the ECHL) was a possibility. It’s not what I wanted, obviously. But it is what it is. I think that really helped a lot in my development."
And so he waits for the next chance to try and prove he can play at this level, with the hopes of eventually working his way into the Jets’ goaltending discussion.
"Obviously, the play (in the AHL) is different, the game’s a little different. But it’s just about getting opportunities and playing your role as best you can," he said. "Obviously, in Canada, in Winnipeg, they’re Jets crazy. It’s a good place to play hockey, that’s where you want to be."
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.