|Goaltender Cam Lanigan of the Kamloops Blazers worked hard|
over the summer on the mental part of his game.
(Photo by Murray Mitchell/Kamloops Daily News)
By GREGG DRINNANCam Lanigan is a goaltender, which means he has had to develop the ability to forget a bad goal, and forget it in a hurry.
Daily News Sports Editor
Daily News Sports Editor
Over the summer, he had to learn how to forget an entire season.
“It was frustrating,” Lanigan, 19, said Wednesday after the Kamloops Blazers finished another practice at Interior Savings Centre. “That was probably the worst season I've had in hockey.”
How bad was it?
Well, considering that Lanigan began last season in the camp of the NHL's Calgary Flames, it was kind of ugly.
“That was probably the highlight of my career,” said Lanigan, who is from Calgary. “I was going to my hometown team's camp. Basically, I was almost starstruck just realizing I was there.”
Unfortunately, it was all downhill after he left Calgary.
After his stint with the Flames, Lanigan headed for Edmonton and what would be his third season with the Oil Kings. He had been a sixth-round selection by the Oil Kings in the 2007 bantam draft and, by 2008-09, he was backing up veteran Torrie Jung.
In 2009-10, Lanigan got into 38 games with the Oil Kings, who went through a coaching change following the season, with Derek Laxdal taking over from the departed Steve Pleau.
And when Lanigan, his taste of the NHL not yet faded, began last season 4-8-0, with a 3.73 GAA and a .866 save percentage, he found himself en route to Kamloops, swapped for fellow goaltender Jon Groenheyde, who had fallen out of favour with the Blazers' braintrust.
“Once I came back to Edmonton, I didn't have the start I wanted to and I kind of let things build up there,” Lanigan recalled. “After the trade, I looked at it as a new opportunity. I had a few good games but, then when it started not going well, I didn't know how to deal with it and I let that again build up on me.”
The Blazers had hoped Lanigan would push Jeff Bosch, 20, who had been acquired from the Moose Jaw Warriors six weeks earlier, for the starter's job. However, that didn't happen.
Lanigan, it seemed, had lost his game. He may have left it in Edmonton, or perhaps it was in a ditch somewhere around Jasper. Whatever. It definitely didn't make it to Kamloops. He got into 16 games with the Blazers, going 3-9-0, 5.59, .843 - all numbers he would like to forget.
“It's tough,” he said of sitting behind a goaltender who at one point started 23 straight games. “They did tell me 'It's yours if you want it and you have to work hard.' I obviously didn't.
“I feel I let Bosch take advantage of that role. I didn't push him . . . not like I would have wanted to. Not like when I backed up Jung when I was 17.”
Now, having had a long, long offseason to analyze what transpired, Lanigan said he simply “fell into a funk.”
“It isn't even something I can really explain,” he said. “I just let things build up in me and it got to a point where it was overwhelming. I kind of almost gave up.”
With the Blazers not making the playoffs, it meant their offseason would be a lot longer than most other teams. Lanigan, instead of moping around, chose to use the extra time to his benefit.
“I went home and realized the grave I had put myself in just by not working . . . by almost not even wanting to play,” he said, adding that rather than take a holiday over his extended summer, he chose “to use it as time the other guys wouldn't have to develop and get better. And to work on the head game, as well.”
Ahh, yes, the mental side of the game of hockey. Lanigan, at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, has good size for his position. And he obviously has shown some skill or he wouldn't have progressed this far. But what of the thinking part?
He realizes now, he said, that he never really came back to earth after being in the Flames' camp and that perhaps he went back to Edmonton with “too big of an ego.”
So over the summer he realized that he had to change. Now, he said, he takes things one at a time . . . each day . . . each practice . . . each game.
“I came in with a whole new mindset,” he said, explaining that he arrived at training camp in late August having decided to “come in and keep my head down and keep working no matter what kind of adversity I get faced with.”
Lanigan's first test of his new attitude came Saturday, on opening night, when he fanned on a short-side shot by Prince George centre Charles Inglis in the last second of the second period. That turned out to be the game's only goal as the Cougars won, 1-0.
“That was frustrating,” said Lanigan, who played quite well other than that one miscue. “One mistake costs us the game. It would have been nice to at least get the boys a point.”
But he is adamant that he won't let it drag him down.
“You put it behind you,” he stated. “Luckily, I've had a good week of practice and good sessions with (goaltending coach Dan De Palma). I'm excited to get at it again this weekend.”
As of late yesterday afternoon, head coach Guy Charron had yet to decide on his starting goaltender for Friday night's visit by the Vancouver Giants. But, with the Victoria Royals to play here Sunday, chances are good that Lanigan will get the start in at least one of those games. The Blazers continue to carry three netminders, with Cole Cheveldave, 18, and Taran Kozun, 17, also on the roster.
JUST NOTES: Immediately after Saturday's loss, Charron referred to the Cougars having blocked 33 shots during the game, one more than their goaltender, Drew Owsley, stopped. When Cougars assistant coach Jason Becker watched the video, he also came up with 33 blocks. Becker added that D Cody Carlson had 12 blocks during the game. . . . Kamloops C Logan McVeigh, out since Sept. 3 with a concussion, is back practising and could play Friday. . . . Blazers RW J.T. Barnett, who returned from the New Jersey Devils' camp with a knee injury, skated briefly by himself yesterday but isn't likely to play for a couple of weeks. . . . Kamloops LW Brendan Ranford has two games left in his six-game suspension that was left over from last season. He will be eligible to return Oct. 7 when the Spokane Chiefs are in town.
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