By Mike Fornabaio
SIMSBURY, Conn. — Frederic Cloutier is still waiting for his chance in the AHL. He started well for Houston three years ago, but his record-breaking success in the ECHL has not yet translated into a long-term chance at a higher level.
“I didn’t really get a chance to really prove what I could do in the AHL,” said Cloutier, who is in training camp with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. “Obviously, people know I can play in the ECHL. I want to get that chance.”
The contracts seem to say he’d need to make a big impression this week to stick around. Wade Dubielewicz is the acknowledged No. 1 goalie. Chris Madden, who started the Sound Tigers’ exhibition game Wednesday night against Hartford, was signed to a straight AHL contract.
Cloutier, though, is on a two-way contract; if the team sends him to the ECHL, he’d make a lower salary.
“That’s the hard part about this business,” coach Dave Baseggio said, noting the case of Scott Stirling. The former Sound Tiger, who has impressed on every callup to the AHL, didn’t get a solid chance to stick until this year, his sixth pro season, with Rochester. “He’s had to pay his dues and keep playing well.”
Baseggio remembered Cloutier, a righty-catching goalie, from his only Bridgeport appearance: With Houston, Cloutier beat the Sound Tigers 2-1 with 34 saves on Jan. 25, 2003. That raised his AHL record to 3-0. After that, over the next two years, he was 2-5-4 with the Aeros.
His record in the ECHL remained solid. Last year with Pensacola, he was 32-12-3 with a .928 save percentage. In his rookie year, 2001-02, with Louisiana, he was the ECHL’s MVP and goaltender of the year, with a then-league-record 1.84 goals-against average and a record .945 save percentage.
“As a goalie, I’m quick. I’m not an oversized goalie; I’m not 6-3, 6-4,” said the 6-foot, 185-pound Cloutier. “But I can play like a big goalie playing the butterfly.”
His big weakness, he said, is puckhandling.
“In the (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League), we don’t come out of the net much,” Cloutier said. He feels he’s shown what he can do a level below here. Now, he’s hoping for a chance to show what he can do here.
“I don’t know if there’s anything he’d have to do,” Baseggio said, “just keep playing well. I don’t know how it’s going to unfold yet. The best thing for him to do is keep playing well, and then the organization has to make a decision.”