THOUGH it wasn’t exactly a Greg Goldberg moment, Jacob Behrman had somewhat of a “The Mighty Ducks” introduction to goal-tending.
In the 1992 movie, Goldberg was the reluctant net-minder who was strapped to the goal posts by coach Gordon Bombay. Goldberg’s final words before the exercise, “My mother would not approve of this.”
His teammates then peppered him with slap shots until he realized that, with the protective equipment, it didn’t hurt. “You wimps, give me your best shot,” Goldberg said after his quick transformation to a fan of his new position.
Behrman, now a goaltender for the Columbus Icemen, who face the Penn Kingsmen in the AAA State Hockey Finals on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, was volunteered to play the position at 10 years old when nobody else at the Hamilton Center wanted the job.
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“I was the guinea pig,” said Behrman, a Columbus resident who now is a sophomore class homeschool student. “It was fun, but the first time I got scored on 14 times.”
Like Goldberg, he discovered that the goalie’s equipment provided quality protection.
“I was a little (scared), but the shots weren’t all that hard,” he said.
What he also discovered that day was that being a goalie fit him perfectly.
“I do enjoy it because every shot is different,” he said. “And I was intrigued by the different situations. You are in a position that is unique in sports. You are kind of alone but you could single-handedly change the outcome of a game.
“You have to be mentally tough because the game revolves around the goal-tending position and you need to skate pretty well because you have to move laterally, slide and drop down.”
Behrman currently is working to earn more time on the ice as Luke Fry, a Columbus East junior, holds the starting job for the Icemen. Fry showed how a goalie can dominate a game or a series as he registered three shutouts in state tournament pool play Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On Friday, he stopped all 18 shots in a 2-0 victory over the Evansville Thunder.
He followed with a 1-0 win over Lakeshore St. Joe on Saturday with 23 saves and he finished on Sunday with a 4-0 blanking of Adams/Marion, stopping 31 shots in that one.
“I started playing goalie when I was 6 because I liked the challenge,” Fry said. “Everyone wanted to score, but I liked stopping those kids.”
Although Goldberg came out of his ordeal unscathed, Fry noted that goal-tending gives him plenty of lumps.
“They want to show people that (slap shots) really don’t hurt, but they do hurt sometimes,” he said. “You get a really big kid and he takes a slap shot 20 feet away and it hits you in the chest, it hurts. It can knock the wind out of you. There are times you get hit and it stings a lot, and you can get a concussion if the puck hits you in the head.”
That being said, Fry loves his job.
“As a goalie, you are the last line of defense,” he said. “You do it by yourself. (When you train) you really don’t get to work with the other guys.
“But one of the greatest feelings is when you’ve saved your team. You get a lot of reward for that.”
And when a goalie whiffs on a soft shot?
“You catch a lot of grief over that one,” Fry said with a laugh.
Icemen coach Andy Cesarski appreciates any young player who takes up the position as most players don’t want any part of it.
“At first, it is very difficult learning the position growing up,” Cesarski said. “There is a steep learning curve that is very refined over a number of years. As far as keeping your confidence, you have players ripping the puck past you. Then you have to go out and challenge people who are flying toward you to make the distance shorter and to give them sharper angles. You have to find somebody who wants to do it.”
Cesarski said coaches seek a few standard attributes before asking a player to try to play in the goal.
“You need to have quickness, and you have to be somewhat of a loner,” Cesarski said. “A goalie has different needs from a fitness standpoint because he has to be strong in the crouch and able to stay in that position for extended periods of time. He has to be able to do the splits, down and up.
“And you’ve just got to be a goalie. You view keeping the puck out of the net as a challenge.”
Cesarski said goalies take more painful shots from players skating into them than from pucks. “Occasionally, you will get one between the pads that smarts,” Cesarski said. “As a goalie, though, you are exposed and you have to hold your ground while guys are barreling down on you.”
Fry can deal with all those things if he can stop a shot to turn the game in his team’s favor.
“One of the greatest feelings is when you saved your team,” he said. “You get a lot of reward for that.”
He does a lot of work to put himself in the proper position to make saves.
“You have to be able to skate because you have to skate back to the bench on a penalty and you have to skate to the corner to get the puck,” Fry said.
“You also need to have good hand-eye coordination and you need to be able to stay focused.”
He spends a lot of time in the gym trying to get stronger. That’s important because a goalie wears about 30 pounds of equipment and must bounce up and down off the ice.
“Body builders do slow reps,” he said. “You want little movements really fast. Sometimes I will throw a racquetball against the wall and catch it. You want to train yourself to have quick muscles.”
When all is said and done, with the way the puck can ricochet off bodies crowded in front of the goalie, something else is important.
“You’ve got to have a little luck,” Fry said.
The Icemen’s third goalie is Jack Tearman, who is a Franklin resident and a sophomore homeschool student. Like Behrman, he was asked to volunteer to play goalie when he was 10 years old because nobody else wanted to do it.
He immediately took to the position.
“You are the center of attention,” Tearman said. “You are a guy who can make it or break it.”
Tearman said he likes that goalies have to make instant decisions. “You can’t be afraid to try something or take a risk,” he said. “If things don’t go well, you need to have the will to get back into it. You never quit mentally.
“I’m protector of this house. I can’t go back to regular (position) skating now. This is part of me.”
Icemen forward Christian Corbin said he has no interest in being a goalie, but he is glad someone else does.
“I like being in position to score goals,” he said. “I like getting up and down the ice. Staying in the same place sounds boring.
“But the goalie is the most important player on a team. He can decide the outcome of a game.”
“I was the guinea pig. It was fun, but the first time I got scored on 14 times.”
–Icemen goalie Jacob Behrman
“You get a really big kid and he takes a slap shot 20 feet away and it hits you in the chest, it hurts. It can knock the wind out of you.
— Icemen goalie Luke Fry
“You can’t be afraid to try something or take a risk. If things don’t go well, you need to have the will to get back into it. You never quit mentally.”
— Icemen goalie Jack Tearman
WHAT: AAA State Hockey Finals
WHO: Columbus Icemen vs. Penn Kingsmen
WHEN: 3 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Indiana Farmers Coliseum at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis