From Olie Kolzig to Tyler Weiman, Carey Price, Chet Pickard, Drew Owsley and Eric Comrie, there has been a long-standing tradition of great goalies who have manned the net for the Tri-City Americans.
Now, it’s Evan Sarthou’s turn to take the reins, and he’s confident he’s ready for the job.
“I feel I am ready to take over,” Sarthou said. “I had two years to learn from Eric (Comrie) and Lyle (Mast, goalie coach). I feel I am ready to step in and take over the role.”
Second-year Americans coach Mike Williamson, who coached many years against Tri-City and its never-ending stable of quality goaltenders, has full confidence in Sarthou.
“All parts of our game need work, but we have been fortunate as a coaching staff the past two years to have two really good goalies in Eric and Evan,” Williamson said. “It is such an important position. If you have doubt there, it filters through the team. When you have an experienced goalie that everyone has confidence in, it allows them to play a little more confident knowing he’s back there for you.”
Sarthou will get the start tonight as the Americans open their 28th season in the Western Hockey League at Spokane.
A native of Black Diamond, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Sarthou was drafted in the third round of the 2012 WHL bantam draft (65th overall).
“They have had a great tradition of identifying and developing very, very good goaltenders, not only at this level, but those who have gone and had success at the next level,” Williamson said of the Americans. “A lot of people are watching Evan closely — here, on the international stage and in the U.S. program because it’s his draft year. It’s exciting for him. We are glad he is in our net and we aren’t shooting on him.”
Sarthou played sparingly the first half of last season. But when Comrie went to the World Junior Championship in December, then returned injured, Sarthou started 20 consecutive games.
He finished the season with an 11-15-0-2 record with a 3.10 goals against average, a .906 save percentage and seven shutouts — one shy of Price’s single-season record.
“He got a lot of starts last year, probably not as many as he would have liked in the first half,” Williamson said. “He has been here for two years and has been eager to take the role as the No. 1 goalie. He had a good mentor in Eric. He is a bit of a sponge. You can see the maturity he brings to the rink. He is ready to put a stamp on that crease and make it his.”
Beck Warm and Nick Sanders are vying to back up Sarthou. Both have played during the preseason, and Williamson said both have good qualities.
“We have two really good young goalies in our system, and both have shown the are capable of playing for us,” Williamson said. “It will be a tough decision, but one that has to be made.”
There was no concern of Sarthou getting enough ice time or facing shots over the summer break.
He backed the United States to a gold medal at the U-18 World Championships in Switzerland in April, where he had a 1.15 goals against average and a .927 save percentage.
He later attended the U.S. goaltender camp in May in Ann Arbor, Mich., and went to the U.S. World Junior camp in August in Lake Placid, N.Y.
“I’ve been very fortunate to get these opportunities,” Sarthou said. “It’s been a crazy summer, and I’m excited to get the season started.”
Americans name captains
The Tri-City Americans named Beau McCue team captain, with Brandon Carlo, Parker Wotherspoon, Parker Bowles and Taylor Vickerman as alternate captains.
McCue, entering his fourth season with the Americans, is the 27th team captain. He has played 198 regular-season games with 63 goals and 57 assists.
“Beau was the obvious choice to management, coaches and players,” Tri-City General manager Bob Tory said in a news release. “He has been in our program for four years and understands our culture, environment and expectations.”
A Pasco resident, McCue is the first non-Canadian or international captain since Brent Ascroft led the team during the 1996-97 season.