Jackalopes goaltenders pack a potent 1-2 punch
BY LEE SCHEIDE (courtesy of www.oaoa.com)
Two goaltenders. One net. Zero egos.
That's the equation that every successful hockey club must have and it’s the one that the Odessa Jackalopes, for the second consecutive season, carry into the Central Hockey League's Southern Conference Finals.
All season long, goaltenders Joel Martin and Juha Toivonen have been splitting time in net for the Jackalopes, helping the team to the best record in the CHL. Martin won 28 games and Toivonen 21, with both finishing with a goals-against-average under 3.00.
When it came time to make a decision as to which one would start Game 1 of the Southern Conference semifinals against the Texas Brahmas, Odessa coach Paul Gillis chose Martin. After the Brahmas won the first two games, both at Ector County Coliseum, Gillis made a switch for Game 3.
“We told them that we were going to split them during the season and we did that,” Gillis said. “We have a tremendous amount of confidence in both our guys and we wouldn’t have won that series without Juha, who came in and played terrific in those games (3, 4 and 5).
“In that last game, I think he would have liked to have a couple back and it was a time where we had to make a change and we did and Marty came in and was solid. I’ve got two great goalies here and in playoff time you have to use each and every one of your players.”
Gillis brought Martin in to start the third period of Game 6, with the Jackalopes trailing 4-2 at the NYTEX Sports Centre in North Richland Hills.
Watching his team score a pair of third-period goals to force overtime, Martin made the saves that he should have to keep his team in the game and then watched as Collin Circelli goal at 2:04 of overtime lifted the Jackalopes to victory in the best-of-7 series, 4-2.
“When coach told me that I was going in, I just tried to get focused on what I needed to do and I was probably extra focused because we needed to get a couple goals to get back into the game and I wanted to keep it that way,” Martin said. “The guys were playing great in front of me and I didn’t get a lot of work, but it was nice to get back in and get a win for the team.
“Juha won that series for us, coming in after I didn’t do too well in the first two games and that’s what we needed. He did a great job and I was happy because the team was winning and that’s what it’s all about in the playoffs.”
With another round of the playoffs starting Friday for the Jackalopes, against either the Laredo Bucks or Allen Americans, both netminders are going to need to stay ready, focused and be sharp as Gillis decides which matchup best suit the hockey club.
Both Martin and Toivonen would love to be the one getting the call for Game 1 against either opponent and both bring different styles to the ice.
Martin, at 27, is a veteran of the minor-league hockey skirmishes, having started more than 250 games in the American Hockey League, East Coast Hockey League, United Hockey League and International Hockey League, along with the CHL.
His even-keeled presence in the net permeates to the defenseman in front of him, who play a much more technical game with Martin between the pipes.
Toivonen, at 22, is a little more excitable when he’s on the ice and a lot more active in the crease and behind the net, playing the puck up the ice to his forwards or charging out to cover a loose puck before an opponent can gather it in for a shot on goal.
“That happened a lot last year, my rookie year,” Toivonen said. “And it carried over a little bit to this year, especially when we came home after a long road trip; I would be a little shaky in the first game back, but once I had that first game, I was OK.
“But now, in the playoffs, I’m trying to learn from Joel and be a lot more calm because if I’m calm and self confident, then my teammates will see that and know that I’m going to be back there for them and they’ll be calm, too. They’re not going to have to worry about me.”