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For East Coast Wizards magic is in the goaltending

By Ryan Williamson, 04/08/17, 4:00PM MDT


The Wizards advanced to the semifinals in 14U thanks to some mastery in goal

ROCHESTER, Mich. — With the score tied late in the third period of a 14U preliminary round matchup between the East Coast Wizards and Detroit Little Caesars, the Wizards decided it was time for a goalie swap.

During a stoppage, East Coast goalie Danielle Bernstein skated off and was replaced by fellow goaltender Daisy Boynton.

To those who haven’t seen the Wizards in person, they might have though Bernstein was being pulled because of a bad performance. But for East Coast, this is just standard practice.

For six years now, Wizards head coach Mike Girouard has used a system where his goalies rotate in and out of the game every four minutes. While this strategy might be unconventional, it has proven to be successful.

Girouard began coaching this current group of players since they were at the 10U level. Starting at that young age, Girouard employed this multi-goalie strategy. It’s something he picked up from a high school coach who used to switch goalies each shift.

While Girouard doesn’t switch that often, his goalie switches happen at stoppages every four minutes. At first, Girouard instructed the goalies on when to come out. With the netminders having years of experience in this system, the players switch on their own.

“Sometimes I don’t even know who’s out there,” Girouard joked.

Girouard said his goalies have not had any complaints about splitting time. He said he can see this system help their camaraderie. Each time the two switch, they stop and greet each other while giving each other words of encouragement.

In preliminary round play of this year’s National Championship, the East Coast goaltending tandem has proven key to the team moving onto the semifinals.

Bernstein and Boynton opened the tournament with a shutout. In their game against Little Caesars, the duo just allowed two goals, including one that came while Detroit had a two-man advantage.

When he first saw Girouard and the Wizards use this style, USA Hockey ADM Manager for Goaltending Phil Osaer saw this is a great innovation. Since his first experience with the multi-goalie system, Osaer has implemented the strategy with his own teams and has seen others do the same.

“The best part is that the other players really enjoy seeing the goalies switch so often,” Osaer said. “The goalies enjoy it too. They get to be treated just like any other player.”

As the Wizards go onto the semifinals, Girouard will continue to stick with both goalies. When asked if there’s a situation where he used only one goalie, he pointed to a unique circumstance.

“Earlier this season, we had a shootout, and I stuck with the goalie that finished the game,” He said. “I thought about switching them and might even do that in the future.”

Thankfully for Girouard and his team, they won’t be put in that predicament at this year’s tournament. In the playoff round, teams play until a goal is scored. That means the Wizards can continue to stick with the strategy that got them this far. 

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2017 USA Hockey National Championship Sites

Division Location Host Dates
Youth Tier I (14U) Scottsdale, Arizona Arizona Amateur Hockey April 6-10, 2017
Youth Tier I (15-year-olds only) Scottsdale, Arizona Arizona Amateur Hockey April 6-10, 2017
Youth Tier I (16U, 18U) Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Penguins Elite April 6-10, 2017
Girls Tier I Rochester/Macomb, Michigan HoneyBaked Hockey Club April 6-10, 2017
Women's A, B, C Rochester/Macomb, Michigan HoneyBaked Hockey Club April 6-9, 2017
High School Cleveland, Ohio Cleveland Suburban Hockey March 22-26, 2017
Girls Tier II Troy, Michigan Troy Youth Hockey Association April 6-10, 2017
Youth Tier II (14U) Coral Springs, Florida Florida Panthers Ice Den April 6-10, 2017
Youth Tier II (16U) Frisco, Texas Texas Amateur Hockey April 6-10, 2017
Youth Tier II (18U) Lansing, Michigan Lansing Hockey Club April 6-10, 2017
Sled San Jose, California Sharks Ice April 6-9, 2017
Adult Rec Men's Wesley Chapel, Florida Florida Hospital Center Ice April 20-23, 2017
Adult Rec Women's Ellenton, Florida Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex April 27-30, 2017