Brossoit has eyes set on return to Memorial Cup
Flames prospect says playing Hitmen ‘a win-win situation’
Edmonton Oil Kings netminder, and Calgary Flames prospect, Laurent Brossoit has recorded an impressive 0.97 goals against average in the WHL post-season. The Calgary Hitmen will be in tough against the stubborn goalie as they square off in the Eastern Conference final.
Photograph by: Colleen De Neve Colleen De Neve, Calgary Herald
Those florescent bull’s-eyes Velcro-ed to the backs of the jerseys where numbers usually go aren’t anything to be unduly concerned about.
They should not, insists Laurent Brossoit, be interpreted as any sort of burden or curse. Nothing, certainly, to fear or shy away from.
As a matter of fact ...
“We’re used to it,’’ says the Edmonton Oil Kings’ standout goaltender. “We expect it. We’re the target. We accept that. That’s the approach you have to take.
“There’s a lot of pressure that comes along with it, sure. But it’s all in how you handle things.
“We’re lucky to have lot of leaders on our team. So we use that as motivation.
“After last year, we have that experience throughout our lineup. We have a lot of returning guys who know what it takes to win a (Memorial) Cup now, and we understand the approach to take.’’
The Oil Kings enter this Western Hockey League Eastern Conference final as a sizeable betting favourite to consign the Calgary Hitmen to the playoff dustbin one series from a junket to Saskatoon for the 2013 Memorial Cup, May 17-26.
Fine by them.
“We’re looking forward,’’ says Brossoit, “to a great series.’’
What’s certain is that the reigning WHL champs are certainly going to be one tough nut for Victor Rask, Cody Sylvester and the rest of the ambitious Hitmen to crack. Playoff hockey is all about keeping your own house tidy. And the 155 goals the Oil Kings allowed over 72 games over the course of the regular season was the stingiest on both sides of the league, nearly 40 fewer than the next-best Eastern Conference entry.
If anything, they’ve gone into deeper lockdown mode since the post-season got underway. Brossoit’s goals-against-average through nine playoff games (8-1) up to now is - no word of a lie - 0.97.
“Yeah,’’ he replies sheepishly. “I guess that’s alright.’’
Alright?! That’s like saying the Van Gogh Sunflowers hanging in the National Gallery in London is a fairly nice painting, or that Bill Gates is a moderately wealthy fella.
Under 1.00?! That doesn’t merely rank as good. It’s bordering on infintesimal.
“I can’t take all the credit for my stats,’’ protests the Calgary Flames’ recently-signed 2011 sixth-round draft pick. “We play such a good team defensive game. I believe we have the best defensive corps in the league. We’ve got such depth. But it’s not only how good our defencemen are, it’s our forwards, too. We can put any one of our four lines out there and not worry about that line being a liability defensively.
“So it’s a combination of our structure, our system and a lot of hard work from everybody. It’s something we’re all committed to.’’
The series opens Thursday-Friday at Rexall Place before shifting back south to the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Like so many other players canvassed since this match-up became official, the fact that it’s come down to this - Calgary vs. Edmonton - isn’t exactly a jaw-dropper.
“You can’t help but look down the road once the playoffs start, at the possibilities. So when you looked ahead to the third round, it always shaped up to be Calgary. So no surprise there.’’
The Hitguys and Oil Kings haven’t actually tussled for nearly fourth months, since Dec. 18th,to be precise, so the 20-year-old in charge of fortifying Edmonton’s stronghold can be forgiven a bit of a foggy memory when it comes to Calgary tendencies.
“From what I remember, they’re not a team that’s not afraid to score the greasy goals, to go to the front of the net. They threw a lot of traffic at me during the games we played against them earlier in the season, and I don’t see that changing now. That’s a dangerous style to play against.
“I’m so excited for this series. It’s almost like I’ll get support, whether it’s at Rexall or at the Saddledome. Rexall’s home ice right now and the Saddledome, I hope, will be home ice for me in the future. So I’m looking at this as a win-win situation. It’s very rare that you’ll go into a visiting arena and get some support. It’s exciting to be playing in a series like this in front of Flames’ fans.
“They’re probably hoping I’ll stand on my head, but we lose 1-0 anyway.’’
For Laurent Brossoit and his Oil King brethern, losing simply isn’t an option. The sting of finishing 1-3 at last spring’s Mem Cup, trimmed 6-1 by eventual champion Shawinigan in a playoff tiebreaker, remains vivid and a galvanizing motivational tool.
They’ve pledged to look after unfinished business, and the Hitmen are the latest roadblock standing in the way.
“Obviously, anything can happen,’’ acknowledges Brossoit. “We have a lot of respect for Calgary. They’re a very good team. And you always wonder ‘Is this the team that can to beat us?’ So there are nerves. Of course. You’re always going to be nervous. But along with those nervous thoughts comes the confidence. And I think we have more confidence than nerves.
“We’re a pretty positive group.
“And I don’t think any team in the league can beat us over a seven-game series.’’
Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH
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