HERSHEY, Pa. – When the AHL season started, Vitek Vanecek was the elder stateman of the crew’s goalies. A second-round draft choose of the Capitals in 2014, Vanecek had spent two seasons with the Hershey Bears within the AHL coming into the 2018-19 season. With Pheonix Copley now up within the NHL as Washingotn’s backup goalie, the crease in Hershey seemingly belonged to Vanecek.
And but, on opening night time, it was Ilya Samsonov who received the beginning.
A second-round draft choose could be very excessive for a goalie exhibiting that the Caps thought very extremely of Vanecek and his potential. Samsonov, nevertheless, was drafted within the first spherical by Washington the very subsequent yr and is extensively thought to be the crew’s high prospect.
Samsonov’s first season in North America noticed him go to Hershey as one of many crew’s two netminders. Two younger goalies competing for enjoying time on the identical crew seeking to in the future make the NHL might have arrange for a nasty rivalry throughout the crew. However that’s not what occurred.
As a substitute, Vanecek and Samsonov turned mates over the course of their first season as teammates and labored extraordinarily nicely collectively because the Bears’ formidable goalie tandem.
“He is good man,” Vanecek stated of Samsonov. “In the summertime, I did not know him. I simply see him in World Juniors when he was enjoying. … He is superb man, he is good goalie.”
“We have been in a very good relationship,” Samsonov stated by way of an interpreter. “We construct actually good relationship, like friendship.”
A lot of the credit score for his or her relationship belongs to first-year head coach Spencer Carbery who deftly dealt with the goalie tandem by evenly splitting the enjoying time even all through the playoffs. There was no No. 1 and No. 2, there was no starter and backup. As a substitute, the goalies switched off each different and every seemingly made probably the most of their alternatives.
Whereas Vanecek might have made a powerful case to be the No. 1 coming into coaching camp, he took the scenario in stride.
“Going into the yr, I’d have stated that I feel Vitek understood type of the scenario that Ilya Samsonov is coming right here to play in Hershey is a high prospect,” Carbery stated in January. “He understood all of that and I feel he took it in a means of, OK, I must know once I get a chance to play whether or not that is opening night time, whether or not it is the following night time, I wish to show to all people on this group and across the AHL and the NHL that I might be the man and I’ll push whether or not it is a first spherical, second spherical or a high prospect, I’ll push whoever is my goaltending accomplice and that is form of the best way I feel it began and Vitek had an awesome begin.”
There was definitely an adjustment interval for Samsonov who was new to the North American recreation. Hershey appeared to battle with him because the crew discovered itself in final place in January. As he started to show issues round, nevertheless, so did the crew.
With back-to-back shutouts, Samsonov helped spring the crew right into a 17-game level streak that saved the season and helped Hershey go from final place to the playoffs. His full turnaround helped salvage his numbers as he completed the season with a 2.70 GAA and .898 save proportion. Vanecek, in the meantime, was named the crew’s consultant for the AHL All-Star Sport and accomplished a formidable season of his personal with a 2.62 GAA and .907 save proportion. He appeared in 38 video games, Samsonov in 37.
“We do what coaches ask us,” Samsonov stated. “I feel we did a fairly good job.”
Their success this season wouldn’t have been potential with out the constructive relationship they developed with each other.
“The cool factor between these two guys which I feel I’ve grown to essentially respect and I’ve watched it and I preserve form of an in depth eye on how they work together is that they pull for each other and so they’re very supportive of each other,” Carbery stated. “They’re very shut relating to once they do their goalie drills, once they compete in opposition to shooters, they’re rooting for each other.”
For Vanecek, it will have been very simple to really feel slighted by the eye paid to Samsonov and him getting the opening night time begin. As a substitute, Vanecek has managed to maintain a constructive angle about his season and concerning the Caps.
When requested if he felt annoyed over the joy surrounding Samsonov’s future, Vanecek instantly shot that down.
“No,” he stated. “Simply specializing in me and simply attempting enjoying my finest after which simply attempting assist him. There isn’t a frustration.”
With the season now over, Vanecek should await his future as he’s a restricted free agent. Given his sturdy efficiency and the way nicely he appeared to work with Samsonov, a return to Hershey appears all however assured. It’s a return that Vaencek himself stated he would welcome.
“I wish to keep right here, simply do my finest and get to the NHL,” he stated.
As for Samsonov, along with his first North American season now beneath his belt expectations for the 22-year-old netminder will proceed to develop. He acknowledges that and stated he wants to enhance in all areas of his recreation.
When requested if he can be able to step into an NHL recreation as early as subsequent season, nevertheless, he didn’t hesitate to reply.
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