Big goaltenders are dominating hockey rosters

At 6-foot-3, Indy goaltender Matt Tompkins is about average size for an ECHL goaltender this season. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)

At 6-foot-3, Indy goaltender Matt Tompkins is about average size for an ECHL goaltender this season. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)

Over the last two weeks, the Fort Wayne Komets played against 6-foot-4 Cincinnati goaltender Jonas Johansson, then Indy’s 6-3 Matt Tomkins and finally Quad City’s 6-5 Matt O’Connor. Already this month, they have played Orlando’s 6-3 Mackenzie Skapski, Toledo’s 6-2 Matej Machovsky and Wheeling’s 6-3 Adam Morrison.

They’ll also have to face Toledo’s Pat Nagle who is 6-2, Kalamazoo’s 6-2 Joel Martin, Kansas City’s 6-4 Mason McDonald, Cincinnati’s 6-4 Jason Kasdorf or Indy’s 6-2 Collin Delia within the Central Division.

“I know in the NHL some teams won’t sign a goalie under a certain height,” said Komets goaltender Michael Houser who is “only” 6-2. “If you go out and play well, it doesn’t really matter. It would be nice to have a few more inches because I saw the average height in the NHL for a goalie is like 6-3, 6-3 1/2.”

Not that long ago, goaltenders were the smallest players on the team, so much so that when 6-4 Kevin Kurk and 6-3 Kevin St. Pierre played together on the 2005-06 Komets it was remarkable. Until St. Pierre came to Fort Wayne in 2003, it wasn’t that uncommon for a Fort Wayne goaltender to be 5-9 or shorter. Robbie Irons is 5-8 and Chuck Adamson is 5-10, or just tall enough to get their jerseys retired to the rafters.

Now the goaltenders are six inches taller and 30 pounds heavier and almost as athletic. They cover most of the net and take away a lot of the shooting holes. But not all of them.

“They take up a lot of the net, but we just have to get a little more traffic going,” Komets leading scorer Shawn Szydlowski said. “I like playing against bigger goalies because they go down and they don’t move as much so you can pick a corner. Sometimes when they just go down with their arms down, there’s room up top.”

Komets coach Gary Graham always tells his forwards to get to the front of the net so they can screen the goalies. That’s one way to cut them down to size.

“It’s about working smart and taking away these guys’ vision,” Graham said. “If these guys see the puck they are going to make the save. You have to find a way to beat the goalie on a shot, and what they can’t see will be better for us. That’s still a big area we can get better on in the offensive zone. We have been doing a good job of delivering pucks to the net every game. In order to generate higher-quality scoring chances, if we can get better in that department it will help us out.”

Sometimes the only way to open holes is to make the goalies move side-to-side, and the Komets have several set plays like that when they get the puck deep into the zone, but usually, the netminders do pretty well at that, too.

“A lot of goalies just go down and try to make themselves big and they aren’t real reactive,” captain Jamie Schaafsma said. “If you keep your head up and pick a corner it’s probably the easier way to score on them. They usually play a more positional game than a smaller goalie who is quicker.

“Now you want your goalie to be able to stretch post-to-post and that leaves the corners sometimes. Big goalies usually go down, they don’t stay big and stand up. There’s still room above their shoulders and maybe the 5-hole takes a little longer to close on a big goalie, or shoot for rebounds.”

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