In October I had a brief conversation with a young goalie in the MnJHL named Austin Campbell. Campbell, a native of Spokane, WA and son of a Navy Chief, is nothing short of determined to backstop his way to the highest levels of hockey possible and is showing no signs of slowing down an already impressive run. So far in the 2011-2012 season Campbell boasts a 3.39 GAA and a SV% of .905 and was the MnJHL Goalie of the month in November 2011. When asked if he has a particular path he would like to pursue within the hockey world he had this to say: I would like my hockey to pave my way into a good school. I would like to play 4 years there while receiving some sort of financial aid for playing hockey. If any more opportunities are to come up after playing out my years in college, I would love to pursue those. I guess my overall goal is to be able to play hockey throughout my college years and anything else is just icing on the cake.
I was reminded of another net-minder at this point in my interview with the young Campbell, a guy known just as much for his laid back happy demeanor as he is by his passion for the game by the guys who have had the privilege of playing with him, Goalie Adam Avramenko.
Avramenko is no stranger to collegiate level hockey, playing 3 years with Niagra University, and like Campbell may do one day, had some icing on his career. I met Avramenko, known as Avi among friends, during the 2010-2011 season when he arrived in Augusta, GA to take a goal tending position for the newly minted SPHL Augusta Riverhawks. The 6 foot 210 pound Avramenko struggled in net, trying to gain some footing in his first pro season but ultimately finding himself backed into his own net so to speak and waived. Avramenko would come up for air briefly with the ECHL Everblades but this was also short lived, playing only two games for the Florida based team. Things were not looking good for the Alberta native.
A few months later, on a lazy September afternoon, I was browsing through my Twitter feed and almost fell off of my chair as a tweet posted by the Calgary Flames brought the goalie to my attention once again. Adam Avramenko would be replacing injured goalie and Flames draftee Laurent Brossoit at the Penticton Young Stars Tournament. I immediately knew I needed to get an interview with Avramenko as obviously something had changed over the summer break and the goalie that had ended his season on a low-note was beginning the next on a very high one. I began with the obvious, inquiring about his main concerns regarding his future with hockey following a rough rookie season. He had this to say: I had a very poor first year pro and ultimately I did not put the work and mental focus into my game that would have warranted the outcome I wish I had. I spent more time feeling sorry for myself and why things were not going my way then actually trying to change them. It took me awhile to learn this and break my bad habits and let go of my past hockey seasons and move forward. My future has been in constant question since last season but I have put it behind me and tried to live day by day.
So what, if anything did he feel he needed to change following the 2010-2011 season and what did he need to do to bring his game to the next level? Avramenko continues: I met up with David Marcoux this summer, the Calgary Flames ex goalie coach, and he helped change my game as well as my approach to the game. He made me more technical yet made everything simpler. My mental game and physical and technical play are nothing like they used to be. If you saw me play last year and watched me so far this season you would never have imagined or guessed I was the same goalie. The strides forward that I have made and how much I have matured over one summer is incredible to myself.
The changes Avramenko made not only put him on track to Penticton and the Canadian soon found himself being selected to attend the Flames main camp. In regards to his selection he had this to say: It was probably the biggest surprise of my life! I was playing day by day and the way I first found out was I was given an envelope and told to be at the game VS the University of Calgary that night and that following the game the coach would let us know the deal. He would give each player their agenda, each guys varied depending on who was staying and who was going. I had already gotten my package and I opened it and it had a very professional book with my name on it and the flames logo and so on. On the main camp roster was my name, I had never been so excited it felt like a small part of a dream come true.
Avramenko went on to have a few surreal moments at Flames main camp, sharing: Finishing first (tied) in fitness testing among goalies was pretty cool, and seeing my name on my stall with my Calgary Flames attire and so on was pretty great. I actually called my grandpa to say “Your boy’s last name is on a NHL jersey!” haha that was pretty amazing, whether or not it stuck there was not the point, the point was it was on there and my name was on their roster, which was a great feeling. It was a taste of something I have always dreamed of. A taste that makes me want to work even harder then I have in the past to go as far as I can with this sport I love.
So I had to ask him: What was the craziest part about main camp for you? He responded: The whole thing was a pretty surreal and crazy experience everyday was really exciting and pretty incredible. I’d felt like it had never really hit me who I was around and withand at times I would look over and see Iggy or Kipper in the room and like ‘holy crap I love watching these guys and I’m at camp with them right now. I may not have played but just to be a part of it was pretty fun and again I appreciated and was grateful for the opportunity.
Following this interview Avramenko would be sent to camp with theFlames AHL affiliate the Abbotsford Heat where he was ultimately released. The goalie has yet to find a team this season but I think this one statement from him sums up his work ethic and current standpoint: I try not to think about an outcome or the future, now I try to live in the moment and feel, like my life’s motto, as it says on the back of my goalie helmet, that “The harder you work the luckier you get.”
Time and more hard work will reflect how lucky he will get, but hopefully he will get another taste of the icing junior goaltender Campbell spoke about.
Campbell also mirrored Avramenko’s position on the challenges of being a goalie in his interview, stating that “The most challenging mental aspect is staying focused.”
One thing is for sure though, neither one would give it up and surprisingly had almost identical answers to my closing questions. I asked them, who is your favorite goalie? To which they both responded with “Marc-Andre Fleury”, and when asked if they could play any other position on the ice what it would be and why, I was given the following answers:
Avramenko: If I were to play any other position it would be defense. I have quite the clapper and like to hit. I see myself as a Chris Pronger out there, physical but able to score hahaha! Lets’ get serious, I’m a goalie and I would get knocked out with my head down or just get in guys’ ways. I can shoot but I sure as heck don’t know where it’s going, Fulton Reed in Mighty Ducks, 1 for 10.
Campbell: I’m not sure which position I would play besides goalie. I haven’t really ever had the urge to play any other position. But if I had to choose one, I would probably play defense. I get a lot of enjoyment out of preventing people from scoring.
While, as Campbell said, he gets enjoyment out of preventing people from scoring, I hope neither net-minder is prevented from playing the game they love in the nets they protect. Here’s to having your cake and eating it too…with lots of icing.
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