Saturday, October 2, 2010
Former Texas Brahmas goalie Brett Jaeger celebrated a road win Thursday night as his new team, the Coventry Blaze, defeated the Dundee Stars 4-3. Jaeger stopped 31 of 34 shots, earning his third straight win of the season.
Jaeger, 27, opted to sign with the 2009-10 Elite League Champions in late June after playing the previous three seasons with the Brahmas. He left for England a week before the 2010-11 ELIHpre-season began on August 25th.
Jaeger and the Blaze went 2-2 in the pre-season, alternating wins and losses.
The Blaze’s first game of their Elite League title defense ended in a 7-4 home defeat to the Nottingham Panthers. Six days later, they suffered a 4-2 road loss to the Belfast Giants. Jaeger was shaken up in the first period and reportedly looked uncomfortable for the remainder of the match, perhaps due to the fact that the Blaze defensemen kept leaving players unguarded in front of the crease. The following night at home, the Blaze narrowly lost again to the Giants, this time 3-2. It was Jaeger's former Brahmas teammate, Brandon Benedict who caught a rebound and tallied the game winner, giving Belfast the two points and leaving Coventry with an 0-3 record.
On September 15th, the Blaze earned a 9-1 win over EPL Telford in a mid-week challenge match. 19-year-old backup goalie Tom Murdy got the win, substituting for Jaeger who sat out due to a bout of illness. However, the Blaze, once again with Murdy in goal, lost their fourth straight league match 6-4 at Nottingham three days later.
Things changed for the team after they earned their first point of the season at home with a 3-3 draw against the Panthers in the Challenge Cup. On the 25th, with Jaeger back in net, the Blaze recorded their first league win at home with a 9-2 thumping of the Dundee Stars. They carried that momentum forward the following night with a 5-1 win over the Sheffield Steelers and again three days later when they defeated the Edinburgh Capitals 6-3.
The Blaze went on the road to take on the Dundee Stars on the 30th and after three home wins in five days, the Blaze took their fourth straight victory, 4-3. Jaeger stopped 31 of 34 shots faced in the game and very obviously proved he was back in top form after his time off due to a suspected bout of food poisoning.
“I felt good the whole weekend," Jaeger said of his return to the crease. He admitted that the transition to Elite League hockey after playing six seasons in the ECHL and CHL was an unexpected challenge.
“I felt good at the start of the season but there have been some things that I have had to get used to. The game is a different style over here. I’m used to smaller rinks where I can be more aggressive and challenge for the puck and make myself bigger. Here the rinks are bigger, guys are more skilled and can make more passes – but I’m getting used to the flow of the game now, he said.”
Jaeger, at 5' 10" and 190 pounds, has a distinctive style that sees him hit the deck in the "butterfly style" of net minding – a method that he finds successful.
“I try and keep it simple, he said. "I’m not the biggest guy, and I play the percentages. If someone is going to score on me, I want it so it has to be from a good shot.”
Blaze head coach Paul Thompson praised Jaeger’s ability to handle the puck and take pressure off the defense.
“We’re playing with four on defense and he is like having a third defenseman out on the ice, Thompson said. "It saves our defense from chasing pucks, and he showed his quality over the weekend.”
With a difficult October schedule ahead, Jaeger is confident that his time away from the game was not a hindrance and says he can cope with the coming workload.
“The last four or five years I’ve played in 80 per cent of the games, and I’m used to lots of traveling – I can play three games in three days if I have to," he said. “Last week I felt ill and couldn’t play but Tom Murdy came in and did a good job – he is good to work with and a nice guy.”
The Blaze are now ranked fifth in the EIHL with a 3-4-0-0 league record and six points. They'll take on the Capitals on Sunday evening at the Murrayfield Ice Rink in Edinburgh.
Photo credit: Nick Bull
Posted by Robert Keith at 7:35 AM