Tending with a purpose; Bruins will lean on Carlson against Bismarck in Central Finals
Published 10:24 pm Wednesday, April 27, 2016
There was one common factor for the Austin Bruins when they played in the last two Robertson Cups — solid goaltending.
In 2014, the Bruins rode current Gopher sophomore Nick Lehr and last season the Bruins relied on the goaltending of Clarkson University commit Jake Kielly and Evan Smith, who was drafted by the Nashville Predators in the seventh round and played in the USHL this season.
This year, the Bruins have turned to Kristofer Carlson, a second-year NAHL goalie from Centerville, Virginia. Carlson has stopped 93 percent of the shots he’s seen in the playoffs and he had a save percentage of 91.6 in the regular season.
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“He’s a big game goaltender and he can turn it on when he needs to,” Austin head coach Kyle Grabowski said of Carlson. “He’s been consistent against good opponents this year.”
Carlson will be key as the Bruins begin their quest to get back to the Robertson Cup when they begin a five-game series with Bismarck in the NAHL Central Division Finals this weekend. Austin will play at 7:15 p.m. in Bismarck on Friday and Saturday.
Carlson helped the Bruins hold a high-powered Minot offense in check for four games and he’s hoping to do the same to the Bobcats.
“[Bismarck is] a great team and they’re an old team. It’s going to be a tough matchup, but I think we have a good chance to win and advance,” Carlson said. “It’s just a compete level that we’re all buying into and there’s no nerves I think. If there are any nerves, it’s a good thing because it shows how much we want it.”
Carlson has played in a lot of games this season and he’s been able to keep it up by getting plenty of rest when he gets the chance. He said hockey in Virginia got bigger as the Washington Capitals got better, but it still doesn’t compare to playing in Minnesota.
All of the time on the ice for the Bruins this season has made Carlson a better player between the pipes.
“Coach runs a good practice and I’ve played in a lot of games,” he said. “I personally think I have improved and so have a lot of younger players.”
One thing’s for sure, if the Bruins want to get to their third straight Robertson Cup, Carlson will need to bring his ‘A’ game over the next couple of weeks. Grabowski said Carlson was a big reason that Austin got past Minot in four games.
“You have no chance to do well in the playoffs if you don’t have great goal tending and he’s done that for us,” Grabowski said. “On Friday night we got out-shot 32-16 and we stole one. Ultimately Kris was better than their goalie and that helped us pull off a win.”