We all know the story from last year. Sean Romeo was supposed to backstop the Phantoms to the playoffs and a shot at the championship. After his play in 12-13, who would have thought otherwise? But a groin injury knocked him out of the lineup for preseason and for a good portion of the 13-14 campaign. Even when he was in the lineup, he rarely looked 100%. Jake Moore would be called upon to bear the entire workload of preseason and most of the beginning of the regular season. An almost all rookie defense led to Moore getting battered and bruised and eventually yielding his duties to Colin DeAugustine, who proved he both could and should play in the USHL. Now Romeo has moved on and there is a gap to fill, so will DeAugustine automatically be the guy?

 

Colin DeAugustine came in last year with little to lose. With all our other issues, especially defense, he played admirably. As the incumbent goalie, he naturally has the edge for the starter spot. Last season he posted a 3.46 goals against average and a .887 save percentage in 24 starts and 4 reliefs with 1 shutout, coming in his first ever USHL game. I don't think I need to say much here. The 95 birth year netminder seems to be developing well and was the top goalie in the tryout camp All-star games. His only downside is he's slightly smaller than his competition and at 5'9", 175 lbs he looks like he gives up a little more room upstairs, especially when he goes down. His mobility and agility are going to be the deciding factor.

Chris Birdsall is the next up. He comes to the Phantoms as a trade after playing the past 2 seasons for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. The 96 birth year goalie already has more experience than the other Phantom netminders and is on the early NHL 2014 Draft Prospects list for North American players. Last season he had a 3.35 GAA and a 0.888 S% as a backup for a very well rounded 'Riders squad. In the tryout camp all-star games, he certainly did not look to be far behind DeAugustine. He's a little, but not much, bigger than DeAugustine at 6'0", 180lbs. Considering he's already been a backup for 2 seasons and given his draft potential, you can bet Birdsall wants to start. Barring injury or the like, if he wants to take the starting spot from DeAugustine it's going to come down to outworking him in camp.

Finally the dark horse. Ryan Bednard, like DeAugustine last season, is expected by most to start in Johnstown of the NAHL. Also, like DeAugustine, he's been on the Phantoms bench as an emergency goalie. Ryan is in the 97 birth year class, making him the youngest of our netminders though at 6'3" 180lbs, he's our largest prospect in goal. Usually larger goalies bring up the argument about compromising mobility and giving up a larger 5-hole. After seeing Bednard play a few periods in the tryout camp all-star game, I wouldn't worry too much. He moves well laterally and there was no real issue with pucks down low. Given his size and athletic ability, Bednard looks like he could easily work as a legitimate backup goalie, or even start a few games. If injury or performance became an issue with either of the other 2 goalies, Bednard could easily come in, again much like DeAugustine last season, and earn a permanent spot on the roster. Bednard, like Birdsall, has made the early radar of the scouts. Bednard was named to the 2014 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game later this month, joining Kyle Connor and Chase Peason. It's also interesting to note his older brother, Shane, played for Johnstown last season and may end up on the newly minted USHL team, the Bloomington Thunder.

Given that anything can happen in camp through preseason, and it certainly did last season, nothing is guaranteed. To break it down, as I said earlier, I think DeAugustine's incumbency gives him the starting job for now. Birdsall's a close second and probably gets the backup spot. He should be hungry to prove himself and could easily flip things around and put himself in the starter spot. Bednard looks capable and could take advantage if either of the others doesn't play 100% in the early stretch or in the event of an injury. Who knows, a good or bad showing in camp could make or break any of their chances. And this Phantoms phan, for one, is glad to see a little competition and depth in the position this year.

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