Last spring, Adam Brown watched his team’s entire Western Hockey League playoff run from the bench.
The 18-year-old Kelowna Rockets netminder is hoping to view the 2010 post-season from a vastly different perspective.
“Every goaltender wants to be the one come playoff time and it’s no different for me,” said Brown, a native of Yorba Linda, Calif. “I think I’ve had a pretty good year and I’d definitely like to be the guy in the playoffs. But I know nothing is handed to you, you have to earn it. I’ll try and take care of things for the rest of the regular season and see what happens. It’s up to the coaches to decide.”
With last year’s No. 1 man, Mark Guggenberger, sidelined for much of the first half of the season, Brown has been the Rockets’ workhorse between the pipes.
Heading into the the final week of the regular campaign, he had appeared in 56 games, posting a 2.76 goals against average, six shutouts and a save rate of .906.
In Guggenberger’s case, the 21-year-old stopper has slowly but surely worked his way back into the picture after undergoing hernia surgery last September.
In 16 games, the 6-foot-3 Minnesota native has a 3.32 goals against average and one shutout, that coming last week in a 5-0 drubbing of Seattle.
It’s been a long road back for Guggenberger, who played in 51 games for the Rockets last season—regular season and playoffs—after coming over in a trade with Swift Current in early January 2009.
“I have a lot different role than I had last year, I have to deal with it and just be ready to play when I’m called on,” said Guggenberger. “I missed a lot of time, but I’m starting to feel pretty good again and about the way the team is playing. It’s my last year and obviously I want to be the guy in the playoffs but I can’t worry about that. I want what’s best for the team.”
While Rockets head coach Ryan Huska admits Brown has a slight edge based on his body of work this season, the book on the club’s goaltending situation isn’t necessarily closed.
“I think we’re still in a position where we have a lot of confidence in both guys,” said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska. “Yes, Adam has had a good run for us, but Mark has played well as well. It’s a healthy competition.
“Ideally, we’re going to have one guy we’re going to run with,” he added. “Both are capable, so we’ll see what happens.”
Brown, for one, doesn’t necessarily see the team’s goaltending scenario as a competition; rather more as an incentive for each netminder to ramp up his game heading into the post season.
“I actually see it more of a game-by-game situation with me against the other team, not against Mark or not based on what he does,” said Brown. “It’s a benefit to both of us to be going after the No. 1 job. If we’re both playing well then it’s going help the team a lot, too.”
Rocket Shots…Rockets forward Brandon McMillan is the WHL’s player of the week. The 19-year-old McMillan scored two goals, added five assists and posted a +3 rating in three Kelowna victories over Spokane, Seattle and Vancouver…The Rockets will visit the Vancouver Giants Friday, then will close out the regular season Saturday at home to the Prince George Cougars.