GLENS FALLS — Sign up to be a goalie for this year’s Adirondack Thunder, and you’re going to see a lot of shots in practice.
Coach Brad Tapper is fond of running drills and situations at practice in which the puck is alive for a while and offensive players get multiple chances to score. On the surface, that’s good to build up tenacity for them and give them confidence.
But what does it do for the goalies? The exact same thing. Nick Riopel and Ken Appleby may be scored on at practice more than they might like ideally, but it’s all about staying competitive.
“First and foremost, your goalie has to be your best penalty killer, and sometimes there are three, four, five chances in a row,” Tapper said. “So that’s why I believe in drills that keep going a little bit, until they hear a whistle.”
Tapper cited Riopel’s pad save in the final few seconds of Saturday’s season-opening win over Brampton as an example of the hard work goalies need when it counts.
“So if we let them take one shot and then think, ‘Ah, what the hell.’ No, why not compete on a third, fourth, fifth puck? You have to have that effort,” Tapper said.
Both goalies don’t mind being kept busy in practice.
“As long as we have a good warmup, and then we can have a good feel for the puck, at the end of the day my job doesn’t change,” Riopel said. “If I get five shots, two shots, different angles, it’s all game situations. I think Brad knows that.”
“You try to take (the scoring) with a grain of salt and battle as much as you can because in the end, it’s only going to make you better,” Appleby said. “If you’re battling in practice, you’ll do the same in a game.”
Tapper said analytics play into his desire to keep a puck live at practice.
“A shot that misses the net? Well, he still had to react to that puck, and he still had to move laterally to the other side of the (crease) for that puck. I do believe in pucks that are still in the scoring area, if they can get their push over and compete on loose pucks in their area, why not? It helps with their conditioning, it helps with their game pace,” Tapper said.
Appleby said seeing more shots in practice and having both offense and defense learn to compete can only pay off. Riopel added that both offense and goalies get their moments to boost confidence.
“During practice we do a lot of drills for our players to feel good, to get their confidence up, to get a lot of shots on us,” Riopel said. “But after practice, we kind of take the players away, especially the forwards, and do a couple of goalie drills for us to get our confidence up and have a feel for the real situations close to the net and all that stuff.”