Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Garrett Bartus is battling for the backup goalie spot in an intense training camp battle. His spot isn't guaranteed despite an impressive showing last season and praise from head coach Gary Graham.
Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Goaltender Sean Bonar, middle, won 2 of 3 games in his previous stint with the Komets in 2015-16.
Wednesday, October 04, 2017 1:00 am
Goalies battling for roster spot
Bartus, Sakellaropoulos, Bonar look to join Houser
JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette
On the Komets' goaltending situation, this much is known: Michael Houser will be here when the regular season opens Oct. 14 at Memorial Coliseum against the Toledo Walleye. That has set up the most compelling battle of training camp, as Garrett Bartus, Alex Sakellaropoulos and Sean Bonar are vying for the other spot.
“It's going to be competitive between the three of us and I'm looking forward to it,” Bartus said.
So much changed over the summer, including the departure of goalie Pat Nagle and a new affiliation with the NHL's Arizona Coyotes, a spot isn't guaranteed for even Bartus, who coach Gary Graham said “very easily could have been the Komets' MVP last season.”
Houser was sent Monday to Fort Wayne from the American Hockey League's Tucson Roadrunners. He played last season with Cincinnati, going 22-14-1 with a 2.58 goals-against average, a .919 save percentage and two shutouts. He's got 72 games of AHL experience.
Bartus, who was the MVP of the Single-A Southern Professional Hockey League in 2015-16, was called in last season after Nagle suffered an early season high ankle sprain and Eric Hartzell fizzled. Bartus went on to a 21-7-0 record with a 2.68 goals-against average, a .905 save percentage and four shutouts.
“For me, I think it's just coming in with confidence again,” Bartus said. “I kind of built that up last year and I want the same thing coming into this season. I want to keep the momentum going. I worked on a few things this offseason with a goalie coach, cleaned the things up that I needed to, and I feel really good coming into the year.”
Sakellaropoulos and Bonar, though, are no slouches.
A rookie, Sakellaropoulos helped Union College to a national championship as a freshman and last season was 22-6-2 with a 2.60 GAA and a .916 SP.
“Alex is a heck of a goalie out of a great program, had a great four-year career at Union and just came back from the Chicago Wolves' (AHL) camp. He did really good there,” Graham said. “I got some good reports on him so I'm excited to see how he progresses in camp here.”
Bonar, who played three games with the Komets in 2015-16, was the SPHL's Goaltender of the Year last season, going 32-15-2 with a 2.07 GAA, a .927 SP and four shutouts.
The Komets have three exhibition games – including games at the Coliseum on Saturday, against the Indy Fuel, and Monday, against the Kalamazoo Wings – but Graham will be watching the netminders beyond just game situations.
“Practice habits – are you prepared for practice?” Graham said. “In a short window of time, you've got to evaluate guys. It's competition and it's going to be a good one.”
The Komets hope training camp competition will make sure they end up with the right netminding duo.
“Anything can happen at any time, so you can't look too far into the future because anything can change in a heartbeat,” Bartus said.
Note: The Komets signed center Marco Roy, 22, a second-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers in 2013. He played 23 games last season in the AHL with the Utica Comets, tallying one goal and six points. He also had one goal in five ECHL games with Alaska.