GLENS FALLS — Teammates of goalies will often say of their backstop, “he’s the man.” In Drew Fielding’s case recently, it’s as much fact as compliment.
Fielding, 27, has started the last five games for the Adirondack Thunder. In the latter four, covering one week, he was the only full-time goalie available for the Thunder, who had emergency backup goalies signed just in case Fielding got injured.
Fielding went 2-3 during that stretch, moving his record with the Thunder this season to 9-5-0-2. The past week has been either “a lot of fun” according to Fielding, or “nerve-wracking to have one guy,” according to Thunder coach Brad Tapper.
“Getting to play is obviously what hockey players live for,” said Fielding, the Thunder’s all-time leader in goaltending wins. “It’s a lot better when we have another goalie here who’s doing well to be supportive, but now that I get the opportunity to play, you want to play well every chance you get and want to play as much as you can.”
Fielding didn’t start the season with the Thunder, despite having played parts of the last two seasons with them. That’s where associate coach Alex Loh, who had been with the Thunder the previous two seasons, came in handy.
“I didn’t know about (Fielding),” Tapper said, “and Alex said we should bring him in just in case times are going tough with the goalies. And he came in and he’s been such a good teammate, he’s been such a hard worker. He’s got such a fire and passion.”
Adirondack’s goalie situation has been just as fluid as any other position this season, but Fielding has made a positive impression with Tapper, and the coach plans on keeping him close.
“A couple of times we had three goalies, but because of his attitude and effort, and the culture we have, he’s been outstanding and we don’t want to lose him to some other team,” Tapper said. “We want him to stay here.”
Fielding said he doesn’t mind getting a few chances to save the puck early in a game, but he’s not about to tell his defense to let up at all.
“I think a big part of it is you have to treat each game like an independent event,” Fielding said. “You’ve got to take what they give you and be ready. Because every team in this league is going to get quality scoring chances at some point, so you’ve got to be ready.”
Tapper said Fielding’s quickness side to side is an asset.
“Because he’s so quick side to side, he denies any second chances, sometimes, at our net because of his athleticism,” Tapper said.
Tapper is hopeful to get another full-time goalie on the roster as soon as Wednesday morning, but Fielding will certainly see action during the Thunder’s three-game home series with Florida starting Wednesday night. The other two games are Friday and Saturday.
That schedule gives the series a playoff feel, something both Fielding and Tapper don’t deny. While Fielding said the team likes to split things into little blocs and set short-term goals, and that this series is a perfect chance to do so, Tapper recalled treating a three-game November series against Reading like a playoff series. Adirondack lost all three.
“So we’re going to take it one game at a time. We’re fighting for our lives here. Our division is so tight, it’s not funny,” Tapper said.
One game at a time or not, there are certain things that tend to happen when two teams keep seeing each other.
“Usually by the third game you don’t like each other, even though you’re not necessarily familiar foes,” Fielding said. “I’m sure there’s going to be some heated rivalries by the end of the week.”
NOTES: The Thunder got forward Terrence Wallin back from Binghamton of the AHL on Tuesday, so he will likely move to the first line.