By Jeremy Peter
CINCINNATI – A goalie has a lot to think about in the net. The trick is shutting it all out.
Besides all the gear he’s loaded down with, a goalie shoulders the most burden for a loss. The strain can transform a starter into a spectator if he can’t get a grip on his emotions – especially in Cincinnati, where it’s win or sit down.
“It’s a real mental game in the net,” Cyclones goalie Loic Lacasse said. “There’s pressure. A weak goal is hard mentally because you know the guys on the team are like, ‘Oh, come on, you should have had that one.’ Then the coach will probably tell you something. (You’re thinking) ‘OK, you gave that one up? You give up another right away and you’re probably out and he’ll put the other one in.’ You’ve got to keep your composure, because it happens. That’s what hockey is.”
The “other one” is Cincinnati’s other goalie, Ryan Nie. Cyclones coach Chuck Weber has a policy of “whoever is winning is playing” when it comes to his goaltenders.
Lacasse, who has five wins in the ECHL playoffs, was pulled in Game 2 of the Elmira series after giving up three goals. Nie came on in relief to collect the victory and started the rest of the series. He posted a shutout in Game 4 of the North Division Finals to secure a four-game sweep of Elmira and will be between the pipes for Game 1 of the American Conference Finals Saturday in South Carolina.
“It gives you something to work for,” Nie, who has three postseason wins and leads the ECHL with a 1.85 goals-against average, said of Weber’s policy. “You play a little harder. If you have a bad game and for whatever reason you’re the reason they lose, it’s a little bit of a punishment and a little bit of a reward system, too.”
Lacasse and Nie joke about each other’s games and kid about who has the better technique. Each wants to start, but they’re happy as long as the team is winning.
“It takes a little bit of the pressure off because you know that if you’re struggling, or the confidence is coming in and out, that the other guy is there and he can play too,” Lacasse said. “Now it’s him. I don’t know when I’ll get the call, but I’ll be ready when it comes, and I hope it’s the same for him.”
The winner of the conference finals will play for the Kelly Cup championship, which the Cyclones won last season. Both goaltenders had big games in the previous two series, and Weber expects that to continue.
“Both of them are in a situation where they want to win,” Weber said. “I’ve told both of them that I’d love for one of them to just take the ball and run with it, but in my opinion we’ll need both of them to win a championship. Loic took control of the Wheeling series, and Ryan took control of the Elmira series. We’re looking for one or both of them to have success in the next series as well.”