Hope for the small goalie


Randy Russon
By
November 8, 2018

Cedrick Andree of the Ottawa 67s of the Ontario Hockey League is emerging as a shining example of a goalie who does not have to be big to play big.

While the OHL — and other junior level leagues and their coaches, general managers and scouts — seem fixated on the 6-foot-1, 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-5 goalies, the 5-foot-10 Andree is giving hope to the smaller net-minder.

Andree, who tips the scales at 165 pounds, has played a starring role thus far this season with the 67s, who not only lead the Eastern Conference standings but are in first place overall in the 20-team OHL.

The 2000 birth year goalie, who hails from the Ottawa area town of Orleans, has a record of 14-2-0 to go with a 2.58 goals against average and .907 save percentage at this stage of the 2018-2019 season. Andree has come into his own this season after appearing in the equivalent of 11 games as a rookie reserve with the 67s over the course of the 2017-2018 campaign.

A 12th round pick of the 67s, two years ago at the 2016 OHL priority selections draft, Andree has earned the trust of Ottawa coach Andre Tourigny. Andree is currently firmly entrenched as the 67’s no. 1 goalie.

“Size can be over rated at times,” Tourigny told Postmedia. “Size is only a part of what we (the 67s) look at when evaluating whether we think a goalie can play at this (OHL) level.”

Tourigny, who is in his second as the head coach in Ottawa, can draw on his own son when it comes to sizing up small goalies.

Jean-Philipe Tourigny, who was drafted by the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the Quebec Major Jr. Hockey League in the eighth round back in 2016, and who is currently serving as Andree’s backup with the OHL 67’s, is the quintessential small goalie at a mere 5-foot-6, 150 pounds.

Meanwhile, another OHL goalie who doesn’t fit the obsession that many coaches, general managers and scouts have with having to be 6-foot-plus is Zachary Roy of the Hamilton Bulldogs.

Roy, who is from the North Bay area, has put up pretty good numbers thus far in his rookie OHL season.

Standing 5-foot-11 and tipping the scales at 175 pounds, the 2001 birth date goalie has a 4-4-0 record with a 3.08 goals against average and .904 save percentage for the Bulldogs. Roy was picked by Hamilton in the fourth round of the 2017 OHL priority selections draft.

Andree, Tourigny and Roy — as examples of having been drafted and making it to the major junior level as goalies who are on the small side — just may provide hope to a kid like Noah Zeppa of Sault Ste. Marie.

Zeppa, who has a 2002 birth date, was bypassed at the 2018 OHL draft despite being a puck-stopping symbol of strength for the Soo Minor Thunderbirds of the Great North Midget Hockey League during the 2017-2018 season.

What worked against Zeppa — who at this time a year ago stood in at just 5-foot-7 and weighed only 145 pounds — was that he was playing for a last place team in the Great North that won only two games in 2017-2018. That and the fact of not being selected to play for Team NOHA (Northern Ontario Hockey Association) at last spring’s OHL Cup also hurt Zeppa at the 2018 draft table.

And while Zeppa is again playing — and playing well — for a last place team this season in the Soo Major Thunderbirds, he has also grown in stature.

From 5-foot-7, 145 pounds a year ago, Zeppa is now 5-foot-10, 165 pounds. Given the fact that he has a late birth date — he does not turn 16 until December of this year — and is in the midst of a growth spurt, Zeppa could well hit the 6-foot mark before long.

Regardless, Zeppa is already becoming a bit more noticed.

For starters, it was a unique — and unexpected — OHL audition for Zeppa last month as he dressed as the emergency backup goalie for the aforementioned Hamilton Bulldogs in a game against the Soo Greyhounds.

In that match, Zeppa, served as the backup goalie to aforementioned Hamilton rookie Zachary Roy because of an injury that Bulldogs veteran Nick Donofrio had sustained the night before.

Zeppa has since been called on to practice with his hometown OHL Greyhounds.

Meanwhile, via his contacts in Sault Ste. Marie and northern Ontario, Hamilton scout Beau Moyer has been keeping close tabs on Zeppa this season.

At any rate, given the success that is being enjoyed by, in particular, the aforementioned Andree with the OHL 67s this season, maybe, just maybe, a scout like Moyer — or some one else — will not be shy to look outside the box and give an OHL opportunity to a kid like Zeppa ahead of next season.

While the odds seem to be against Zeppa and others because of their size, it is worth noting that a number of smaller goalies have not only made it to the OHL over the years but excelled.

Just a short list would include pint-sized, 5-foot-5, 155-pound Darren Pang, who tended twine for the Belleville Bulls and Ottawa 67’s from 1981 to 1984 and then went on to play in 81 games in the National Hockey League.

The list would also include Matt Mullin, a star goalie with the Windsor Spitfires and Sudbury Wolves from 1991 to 1995 while standing in at a mere 5-foot-7, 165 pounds.

Then there is Kyle Gajewski, who was a standout goalie with the Soo Greyhounds from 2004 until 2008. The 5-foot-10, 145-pound Gajewski won 114 games over four seasons in a Greyhound uniform.

Back to the present, a perusal of current OHL statistics shows a number of goalies — see for yourself, we are not going to ridicule any one by mentioning names — in the 6-foot-1 to 6-foot-5 range who, simply put, have sub-par stats when it comes to win-loss record, goals against average and save percentage.

Which, begs the simple question: if a goalie can (or cannot) stop the puck, what does it matter how small (or how big) he is?

The winningest coach in OHL history, the legendary Brian Kilrea (who once coached the aforementioned Darren Pang with the Ottawa 67s), was once asked what he looks for in a goalie.

“One who can stop the puck,” he replied.

Photo of Cedrick Andree, in game action with the Ottawa 67s, by Valerie Wutti.

Photo of Noah Zeppa, in warmup as emergency backup with the Hamilton Bulldogs, by Jim Egan.


What you think about “Hope for the small goalie”

  1. …back when diminutive Jake Smith starred for Battalion…leading them to several playoff round wins the pros would not give him a sniff….have things changed????????

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