By Andy Kent
Naples Daily News
As a rookie goaltender, having the ECHL’s best offense on your side is a blessing, especially when the other goalie sharing time in net with you also is a rookie.
Dan Turple and Dave Caruso are living that reality this season with the Gwinnett Gladiators, and they have benefited from a Gladiators team that has scored 229 goals in 55 games (an average of 4.16 per game). Because of that, the 198 goals given up by the pair (an average of 3.60 per game) has not received as much attention.
Turple, who at 6-foot-6, 220 pounds is one of the biggest goalies in the league, doesn’t take his forwards for granted.
“Scoring goals has never been hard for us this season and I never get worried when we go down early, whether it be me or Caruso in net, because at any given time our team can score three or four goals in a period,” said Turple, who is 16-9-3 with a 3.62 GAA and an .881 save percentage. “Our confidence is higher now than it was at the beginning of the season, but as tight as our conference is we know at this point in the season we can’t afford to beat ourselves. SO we have to keep playing well.”
The 22-year-old native of Hamilton, Ontario was a sixth-round draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2004 and describes himself as quick for a big man. He tries to cut off the angles for the shooters with his size, but isn’t afraid to use his butterfly style either.
There have been times that Turple has been exposed by skilled shooters, most of them on his own team during practice. He faces ECHL leading scorer Brad Schell and second leading scorer Scott Mifsud on a daily basis, as well as All-Star defenseman Jon Awe (who set a record for the hardest shot at 102.2 miles-per-hour at the All-tar Skills Competition).
Rookie Colton Fretter, who is fifth in scoring and tops among rookies with 64 points (35 goals, 29 assists), is currently out with a broken leg, but Turple admits when he’s gotten sloppy in net he has left some holes up high near his shoulders.
Gladiators coach Jeff Pyle has been pleased with the play of his young goalies, and enjoyed being able to alternate them as opposed to overplaying one like he has in the past due to call-ups. Caruso, 24, (6-foot-1 and 215 pounds) gives away five inches to Turple and is 16-8-3 with a 3.31 GAA and a .897 save percentage, but Pyle sees similarities in their styles and strengths.
“When (Dan’s) on his angles that’s when he’s at his best, when he’s coming out being aggressive,” Pyle said. “Both of those guys are the same way, when they’re sharp on their angles and just doing the little things well, the positioning, I think that’s the biggest thing for a goaltender.
“I want them to be aggressive coming out of the net but I want them to be intelligent about it, too, and we’ve been caught out of the net at times. But that’s part of the learning process and they’ve both done a great job working hard for us.”
Pyle did say the potency of his offense kind of works as a double-edged sword, because it allows the goalies not to get rattled if a few pucks get by them, but it also tends to make them and the defensemen a little too relaxed and willing to rely on the forwards to make up a deficit.
Regardless, this is the tandem Gwinnett is sticking with and hoping to ride to perhaps a second straight Kelly Cup Finals appearance.