Windsor Star

Engelage shoots back

Tabloid says Spits goalie weakest link

- BY JIM PARKER STAR SPORTS WRITER Opportunit­y to perform

With all the hype surroundin­g the Windsor Spitfires, there was still room for one publicatio­n to get a shot at goalie Andrew Engelage.

Days before the Canadian Hockey League ranked Windsor the No. 1 team in its pre-season poll, The Hockey News had Windsor No. 2 in the Ontario Hockey League.

The Hockey News had only one concern about the Spitfires this season — goaltendin­g.

It was a shot Engelage’s teammates took personally and quickly posted in the dressing room. The overage goalie took it to heart. In fact, he has the article taped above his dressing room stall.

“It was good motivation for the guys and I know I have to prove myself and show I can be a top-flight goaltender,” said Engelage, who will start the regularsea­son opener Friday in Sarnia.

Engelage was passed over in his draft year, but former Spitfires head scout John Bowler took a flyer on him in the 2005 draft.

When the team’s new ownership took over, the club opted to keep Engelage over a younger Jake Fischer. “I just came in and worked hard,” Engelage said. He worked hard enough that the club was willing to turn things over to him and deal Anthony Guadagnolo.

But his second season was filled with ups and downs.

He started the year as the No. 1 goalie, but the club traded for Michal Neuvirth and then brought in Jakub Kovar to lead the team.

“It was a bit of a shot to the pride, but you have to battle through,” the 19-yearold Engelage said.

While battling for playing time, Engelage still managed to post a club record 2.57 goals-against average in 42 games. That easily bested the old mark of 2.73 set by Michael Leighton in 2000-01.

“The good thing is he kept the right attitude,” Spitfires general manager Warren Rychel said. “He didn’t get sour and just kept at it.”

It was Engelage who played the final game of the playoffs for Windsor, but it wasn’t until Kovar signed back home in the Czech Republic that he knew he would be back. “They wanted me back,” Engelage said. Head coach Bob Boughner made it clear he was coming in as the No. 1.

“I definitely owed him an explanatio­n after last year,” Boughner said. “I told him, ‘This year, it’s your job.’ I don’t want to deal for a goalie. The guys like him and respect him.”

For his part, the six-foot-five, 206-pound Engelage worked hard in the off-season to improve his conditioni­ng and quickness.

“You can see the way he pushes off from post to post,” Boughner said. “He might have struggled with that in the past, but Sarnia tried five or six back-door plays (Saturday) and he was there.”

For his part, Engelage wants to ensure there are no easy goals on him this season and quiet the critics.

“I think it’s making timely saves,” he said. “I have to be sure I make the saves I have to make.

“I know myself I can do it (and be No. 1). I know some people might not think it and I want to prove it.”

 ??  ?? EDITORIAL COMMENT: Andrew Engelage has taken issue with criticism in The Hockey News.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: Andrew Engelage has taken issue with criticism in The Hockey News.
 ?? Star photo: Dan Janisse ?? MINDING THE NET: Windsor Spitfires starting goalie Andrew Engelage practises Monday at Windsor Arena.
Star photo: Dan Janisse MINDING THE NET: Windsor Spitfires starting goalie Andrew Engelage practises Monday at Windsor Arena.

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