When Jackson Whistle went down with a season-ending injury in 2015-16, it led to a dramatic shift in the careers of two other goaltenders.
Michael Herringer was suddenly thrust into the role as the No. 1 stopper for the Kelowna Rockets, while Brodan Salmond earned an unexpected promotion from the junior A ranks in Alberta.
Now, as the 2016-17 season begins, Herringer and Salmond are teaming up to provide the last line of defense for WHL club.
As Whistle took the sidelines last January, Herringer was thrown into the fire and went on to make 19 consecutive starts for the Rockets.
And after some shaky nights between the pipes early on, the Comox native soon settled into new role as the club’s primary netminder.
“Michael would admit to some growing pains early on with regards to having to play so many back-to-back nights, 19 straight games, that was a big adjustment, dealing with fatigue,” said Travis Crickard, the Rockets goaltending coach. “But once he adjusted and settled in, he did an admirable job. He had some particularly good games in the playoffs, so that was encouraging to see.
“This is a good opportunity for him this year to pick up where he left off,” added Crickard, “and have a full season as our starting goaltender.”
Herringer went on to play in 44 regular season games, posting a 3.18 goals against average and a .900 save ratio.
The 6-foot, 175-pounder stepped up his game a notch in the playoffs, with a 2.44 GA A and a .928 save percentage.
With half a season as the No. 1 man and an off-season of hard work under his belt, Herringer said he’s motivated to make the most of the No. 1 job.
“I want to be the guy pretty much every single night, hopefully play 60 games this season, that’s why I worked so hard all summer,” said Herringer. “I feel pretty good, I’m just going to try and carry on what was going on at the end of last season.
“Having a really good team in front of you helps with your confidence as well.”
In Salmond’s case, the 17-year-old from Calgary plans to build on the experience he gained late last season, seeing action in seven games and posting a 3.31 goals against average.
Crickard says Salmond—who was called up from the AJHL’s Camrose Kodiaks last February—has made some significant strides in his game since last spring.
“I shouldn’t say I was surprised, but I was happy to see how much Brodan had improved over the summer,” said Crickard. “He worked very hard, he did a lot of work with (goaltending coach) Lyle Mast, and improved several aspects of his game.
“We expect Brodan to play some quality games for us this year so he’s ready to be our main guy next season.”
Like any healthy goaltending competition, Salmond hopes to be able to push Herringer for more time in the Rockets net this season.
In the end, Salmond simply hopes to get better while filling whatever role the coaches ask of him.
“I just want to take it day by day and be the best I can,” said Salmond, a bantam draft pick of the Rockets in 2013. “I obviously want to push Mike for the starting job, we’re pretty good friends and it’s good competition between us. I think that’ll be beneficial to me, him and the team. It just makes everybody better.
“I want to work hard every day,” he added, “just do whatever they need, whether it’s sitting on the bench and being supportive, or playing in games.”
The Rockets resume their exhibition schedule this weekend with a home-and-home set against the Kamloops Blazers. The teams will play Friday, 7 p.m., at Prospera Place, then again Saturday at the Sandman Centre…Kelowna wrap up its preseason Friday, Sept. 16 at home to Victoria…The Rockets open the regular season Friday, Sept. 23 in Kamloops.