Crowded crease at camp creates coach’s conundrum

Ridge Meadow Flames looking to future as veterans battle for spot

Newly acquired Flame Nolan Wallinger goes low stick-side on veteran goalie Jordan Hospes during a practice at Planet Ice on Monday.

Newly acquired Flame Nolan Wallinger goes low stick-side on veteran goalie Jordan Hospes during a practice at Planet Ice on Monday.

For Ridge Meadows Flames coach and general manager Jamie Fiset the math is simple. Three players vying for two positions means one is on the block.

If only the decision were that easy.

Fiset is coming off a pair of games last weekend against the Mission City Outlaws and the Flames still have to decide who stays and who goes.

The Flames have both goalies from last season in camp,  20-year-old Wes McLeod and 19-year-old Jordan Hospes. Added to the mix is 17-year-old R.J. Bruni, who is currently in Chilliwack on a try-out with the Chiefs of the BCHL. Should Bruni fail to crack the roster and find himself back with the Flames, Fiset said he is going to move one of his veterans.

“The interesting thing with veteran goalies is that we only play a 44-game schedule, and to be fair to them, they need to play at this age, not sit on the bench,” noted Fiset. “Both of our guys are capable of being starters in this league and to do a 50/50 split wouldn’t be fair to either.”

With eight 20-year-olds returning to the Flames roster for the 2012/13 season, Fiset said he has been up front with all his players that roster moves will inevitably come before the start of the season. He said the team has to think beyond what’s best for the immediate future.

“That’s too big a gap to try to fill in one year. That’s the unfortunate nature of the business.”

So while he knows one of his veterans will be on the move, it comes down to a decision on which tandem the Flames’ coaching  staff feels most comfortable with.

Fiset said both McLeod and Hospes are having strong camps, making his decision all that more difficult. McLeod played in 27 games last season for the Flames, with a record of seven wins and 16 losses. He recorded one shutout with a 3.63 goals against average and a .902 save percentage.

Hospes started last season with the Abbotsford Pilots, where he was 5-1, with a 2.31 GAA and .913 SV%. In his 11 games with the Flames, his recorded dipped to 2-7 with a 4.93 GAA and .892 SV%

McLeod was the Flames starter as the team pushed the Aldergrove Kodiaks to six games in their opening round playoff exit. Fiset said despite McLeod’s strong play in last year’s post-season, the slate is clean for both goalies to grab the Flames roster spot as the returning veteran goalie.

The team’s other concern with moving one of the two veterans is that they return to haunt their former team. Knowing a team has a glut at a certain position can hamper a general manager’s return come trade time.

However, Fiset is confident either goalie will bring a fair return.

“As long as more than one team needs a goalie, that’s what will determine the price.”

Also confusing the situation was Friday’s split-squad games against the Mission City Outlaws.

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