By Ken Robison
The Fresno Bee
FRESNO, Calif. – Brett Jaeger didn’t fret when he was released at the beginning of the Fresno Falcons’ season.
He understood the Falcons had two goalies with better résumés under contract. So he hung around while former record-setting Ohio State goalie Mike Betz was released and former second-round NHL draftee Simon Lajeunesse was traded to Gwinnett.
Now Jaeger, who a year ago was dropped by his Western Hockey League junior team, is the main man between the pipes as the Falcons are rising from a 1-6-1 start to respectability in the ECHL’s West Division.
His worth was most evident Saturday, when he blocked a season-high 39 shots in a 5-0 victory at Long Beach — the Falcons’ first road win of the season and Jaeger’s first career shutout. He kept his team in the game by holding the Ice Dogs scoreless during a first period in which they outshot Fresno 21-4.
“In a couple of stretches [of the first period] he made a couple of point-blank saves,” Falcons coach Greg Spenrath said. “If he doesn’t do that, it’s a different story. He was ready.”
“He held us in, gave us chance to win,” said defenseman and assistant coach Curtis Sheptak, who praised Jaeger’s dedication.
“His talent is playing hard, showing up every day for practice. He stays after practice, takes extra shots,” Sheptak said. “There are a ton of guys out there with a ton of skill, but they do nothing. His skill is his work ethic.”
Jaeger’s journey from Manning, Alberta, to Fresno started with a fax sent to the Falcons’ office.
“I didn’t have a place to play, so I looked at every option possible,” the 21-year-old said.
So he inundated ECHL and American Hockey League teams with his résumé, hoping to get a tryout.
The last reference listed on his résumé was Drayton Valley of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, where he was named the league’s MVP. He ended up at Drayton Valley, his old junior team, because he was cut by the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades when they decided to go with younger goalies.
Spenrath once played in the AJHL, so he and general manager Blaine Moore brought in Jaeger for a tryout.
“Brett paid his own way here,” Spenrath said. “He wanted to play at this level and improve himself. That’s how he made our roster, by working hard and doing what he needed to do.”