The Colorado Springs Zoomies are off to a dreadful start. Two weeks into the 2020 season, they are the only CHL team that has yet to record a point, having lost all eight of their games. Looking at the numbers, the source of the Zoomies’ struggles is obvious: their defense and, especially, their goaltending.
Colorado Springs is dead last in the league with a 4.70 GAA, almost a goal and a half worse than the next-worst team. Their netminders are facing a nightly barrage of shots – on average, the Zoomies are allowing 34.3 shots per game – and they’re stopping too few of them, with a dismal .861 save percentage.
“I’m starting to wonder if our guys’ pads are made of Swiss cheese,” said Zoomies coach Artie Gambisch. “Some of those shots that get through, I just don’t understand.”
Last season’s starting goaltender, Sonny Kashiuk, earned a call-up to the parent Portland Bluebacks this season. In spite of the loss of Kashiuk, the Zoomies came into this season feeling reasonably content with their options in the crease. Last season’s backup, Cecil Healy, was coming off of a solid season and was expected to take over starting duties. To pair with Healy, the Zoomies acquired Bill Bates, fresh off of a strong performance with the division-winning Omaha Ashcats. It seemed like a solid if not spectacular tandem.
Thus far, though, it’s been a fiasco. Healy has gone 0-3-0 with a 4.67 GAA and an .865 save percentage. Improbably, Bates has managed to be even worse, sporting a 0-5-0 record, a 4.73 GAA, and a .859 save percentage. (It’s possible that there’s a poor-goaltending virus spreading throughout the organization; Portland has the worst save percentage in the SHL as well, with Kashiuk and starter Jesse Clarkson both struggling.)
“I think Billy and I are both fighting ourselves right now,” said Healy. “Goaltending is a mental thing, and your confidence is always balanced on a razor edge. Right now, we’ve both fallen off the razor.”
After the latest thumping – a 6-2 rout at the hands of the Idaho Spuds on Friday – Gambisch decided it was time to do something dramatic to change the team’s fortunes. He had Healy and Bates come to the practice facility early, then asked them to pile their pads and sticks in the parking lot. Once they had done so, Gambisch doused the equipment with lighter fluid and set in on fire.
The Zoomies coach is a fan of unconventional motivational techniques, but this one was his wildest yet. “Watching our stuff go up in flames was pretty crazy,” admitted Bates, “especially since he hadn’t told us he was going to do it.”
“There was bad juju in that equipment,” Gambisch told reporters. “This was my way of hitting the reset button for Cece and Billy. Now they can start fresh.”
Taking a cue from their coach, both goaltenders proceeded to cover their helmets with black electrical tape. “If we want to show off our designs, we’ve got to earn them,” said Healy. “Every time we win, we can peel off some of the tape.”
Gambisch approved of his netminders’ approach. “That’s the spirit!” the coach said. His only comment: “I would have use white tape, to maximize that Friday the 13th-Hannibal Lecter vibe. Really scare the crap out of the other teams.”