By Mike Griffith
Californian Staff Writer
The Bakersfield Californian
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – An ankle sprain, knee surgery and a broken finger.
Not exactly the start Rejean Beauchemin wanted to his second season as a Philadelphia Flyers goaltending prospect.
By the time Beauchemin, 21, had healed form the broken finger (suffered on Dec. 13), there was no room for him on the roster of the Philadelphia Phantoms, the Flyers’ American Hockey League affiliate.
Instead of being shipped to Trenton, the ECHL affiliate of the Phantoms, Beauchemin ended up in Bakersfield.
“I was kind of confused as to why I was coming here, but I guess Trenton had some goalies there already,” said Beauchemin, who was told he was going to Bakersfield after the Phantoms game on Feb. 18. “The first thing I did was go home and check the standings. I saw Bakersfield was sitting pretty good in second place and I was excited.”
The next day he was on a plane to Bakersfield and he officially became a Condor on Feb. 20.
In three games with Bakersfield, Beauchemin is 2-0-1 with a 2.80 goals-against average and .875 save percentage.
“I think he’s really going to help our team,” Condors coach Marty Raymond said. “You can see his technique and he’s patient. I think fans are really going to like this guy. He’s going to get better and better and will give us two really good goalies.
“He’s only played (three) games in three months and I think it takes seven or eight games for a goaltender to be in really good shape. Once he’s back in shape I think we’ll have two No. 1 goaltenders and you can’t ask for any thing better going into the playoffs.”
Beauchemin admits he’s still shaking off the rust from inactivity.
“I’ve tried to stay positive and worked real hard to stay in shape but I still feel a little not like myself on the ice,” he said. “But it will come and hopefully by playoff time I’ll be good to go.”
A sixth-round draft choice of the Flyers in 2003, Beauchemin split time during his rookie season between Trenton (9-18-4, 2.87 GAA and .914 save percentage) and the Phantoms (3-8-1, 2.69 GAA and .909 save percentage). He was 2-5 with the Phantoms this year.
“I set my expectations pretty high at the start of the year and the year started off real good for myself,” said Beauchemin. “Our other goaltender got hurt and I was going to have the opportunity to play quite a bit there in Philly. Unfortunately, I got hurt (the broken ring finger on his left hand) two games later.
“I took a shot right in the tip of the finger and it fractured both my joints. I had a pin in it and still have a screw in my second joint. It’s pretty mangled right now.”
With his finger on the mend, and a new start in a new part of the country, Beauchemin said he’s focusing on the future.
“Everybody has to deal with injuries, it’s all how you come back from them,” he said. “I’m excited to have a new start here in Bakersfield. We’ve got a good team and an opportunity to make a run for it in the playoffs.”
And although he only had a brief pit stop in Bakersfield before the Condors left for a nine-game road trip, Beauchemin said he already felt at home.
“There’s a really good group of guys who seem to get along real well, a lot of laughs,” he said. “The guys enjoy what they do here. The city’s great and I can’t complain about the weather. Everybody has made me feel at home. The crowds we’ve had are unbelievable. It seems like a real great place to play and I’m excited.”
As is Raymond — for this year and possibly beyond.
“Reggie is an American Hockey League goaltender and we have the chance to push him to that level for next year,” he said. “There are all sorts of things involved in this. He’s a guy from the Flyers and Phantoms and that could certainly open some doors for us. We’ll see what happens.”