Oct 052010
 
Photo credit: Doug Eagan

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know that Cam Talbot is now playing professionally, having given up his final season of eligibility. This comes as no surprise to anyone around the program. Talbie, thanks for three great years. We will be watching your professional development. Blake MacNicol’s eligibility is up.

Where does that leave the Charger netminding staff? Here’s your answer:

The Incumbent

#31 Johnny Griggs

Photo credit: Doug Eagan

Johnny Griggs may not have seen any game time on the ice for the Chargers in 2009-10, but he does have a year of coaching under his belt, knows the defense that will be in front of him, and knows what the coaching staff expects of him. Also, it’s not like he was a slouch of a goalie in juniors: Johnny was third in Goals-Against Average in the Central Junior Hockey League (ON) in 2008-09, with an .898 save percentage. While Johnny is listed as a product of the Cumberland Grads, a check of his player card indicates that he was playing for the league’s power, the Pembroke Lumber Kings. When I look at the 2008-09 stats for the Lumber Kings, I see that Johnny was the better goalie in their season-starting tandem: 15-4-1, 5 SO, 2.09GAA, .913SV%. There’s obviously a difficulty adjustment between Junior A and NCAA Division I—just go look at Talbie’s stats as a freshman—but I think Johnny has the capacity to be a solid goaltender for the Chargers next year.

The New Guys

#32 CJ Groh

Photo credit: Geof F. Morris

CJ Groh committed to UAH on Tax Day in 2009 for this upcoming season. A ’90 goalie from Cincinnati, Ohio, CJ bounced around a little bit in juniors this year. CJ signed while being with the NAHL’s Springfield Jr Blues, where he had excellent statistics: 6W-6L-4OTL, 1 SO, 2.66 GAA, .918 SV% this year, 15W-15L-3OTL, 4SO, 2.62 GAA, .917 SV% in 2008-09. In the 2009 NAHL playoffs, he did yeoman’s work in keeping his team in games: 1-3, 2.09 GAA, .947 SV%. That’s all you can ask of a kid, right?

Now, it’s easy to look at his 2009-10 stats with the USHL’s Waterloo Blackhawks—3W-5L-2OTL, 1 SO, 4.14GAA, .876 SV%—and go, “Oi … he took a step back at a higher level of competition.” But a scout sent us the following, from a much longer email that was quite effusive in its praise of CJ:

In Waterloo, if you take out his first and last games then his stats were pretty good, better then 5 or 6 #1s on other teams. His first game within 24 hours of him being traded up to Waterloo – arrived in Waterloo midnight on Thursday, boarded bus next morning at 8am and played that night without benefit of any practices. Last game came vs. a very hot USA U18 team that simply blasted Waterloo (both goalies allowed 5 goals in half game played). Waterloo had opportunity to pick up a young (92) goalie at the trade deadline so CJ was the odd man out – not as much because of performance but they knew he was going to school in the fall and they had a chance to get a kid for next year as well. But they purposely sent him to St Louis (and not back to Springfield) because they knew St Louis has legitimate shot at Tier II National title (3 time defending champs) and they have a goalie coach who would work them daily – something not even Waterloo could offer. His numbers since joining St. Louis have been very good.

So, let’s look at his body of work as a starting goalie in Waterloo: blown out in his debut [where it seemed that there were extenuating circumstances], an overtime loss where he saved 41-of-45, an overtime win where he stopped 31-of-34, an overtime loss where he stopped 31-of-35, two straight wins, including a shutout, and two losses where his team scored one goal for him. I look at that body of work and think, “That’s really no different than anything we saw Cam or Blake struggle with in 2007-08 or 2008-09.” Then, yes, CJ got traded back to the NAHL, this time to the St. Louis Bandits. CJ’s stats in St. Louis were excellent: 5W-1L-1OTL, 1 SO, 1.98 GAA, .910 SV%.

So don’t look at those Waterloo stats and freak out.

#33 Clarke Saunders

Photo credit: Doug Eagan


Clarke will play at University of Alabama – Huntsville

Third year Goaltender Clarke Saunders has accepted a NCAA DIV I athletic scholarship to the University Of Alabama- Huntsville located in Huntsville Alabama.

Clarke is a native of Brockville Ontario, he has been the Braves starter for three seasons, compiling a number of Individual records as well as backstopping a majority of the Braves League record 26 game winning streak. Saunders holds the Braves Career Records for Most Wins – 81, Lowest Goals Against Average – 2.71 Best Save % – .915 and single season Records for Most Wins – 31(09-10), also 2nd most wins – 29 (07-08), Lowest GAA – 2.31, Best Save % – .900 and is tied for Most Shutouts – 3.

After playing a large part in the Braves record breaking season and competing in the Fred Page Cup Eastern Canadian Championships, Clarke will join the Huntsville Chargers in the fall.

Clarke committed to UAH in April. He’s not the first Brockville Brave to don the Blue and White: he’s third behind Jason Hawes and Brennan Barker, who finished his junior career with the Penticton Vees. Sadly, not long after he committed, he hurt his knee:

In practice on Monday, Saunders just fell to the ice in trying to make a save. He went into the dressing room and two players had to carry him back out onto the ice for the team photo.

“I just went to make a sliding save and felt a lot of pain and I couldn’t really get up,” said Saunders in recalling the play.

It’s diagnosed as a tear in the cartilage in his right knee and it’s going to take a week or two to determine if it will heal from rest or will require surgery.

“I feel terrible for Clarkie. It’s his last year and he has this opportunity (Fred Page Cup) and an injury stops him from playing,” said Gill.

How It Will Play Out

I’ve watched practice a few times in the past few weeks, and all three goaltenders are getting ice time. It seems that Groh and Saunders get a skosh more time than Griggs, but it’s not a certainty at this point. I fully expect that the three will all see ice time early until one of them pulls ahead of the others with game performance.

Note: this post originally appeared on SaveUAHHockey.com in April. It has been slightly modified for our use here.

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