Dawson Creek Junior Canucks goaltender David Readman has been sidelined for good, cutting his season short and requiring the Canucks to find a replacement.
Readman suffered a knee injury in mid-November that, since then, has kept him off the active roster. His status was week-to-week and Canuck personnel expected him to return, but an MRI revealed a torn meniscus that Readman will have to have surgery on, forcing him to sit out the remainder of the season.
“He [Readman] was obviously a huge key to our team,” said Canucks head coach Eric Fulton on Saturday at Memorial Arena following Dawson Creek’s 7-4 win over Sexsmith.
“If you look at his record when he was here and when he was gone – it’s pretty evident what he meant to us. We go eight games and tie two, and when he’s in there we win five in a row, or five out of seven.”
Readman, a Dawson Creek native, had seven wins and four losses in 11 starts for the Canucks before suffering the injury on Nov. 17 in a 5-3 win over Slave Lake.
Prior to being placed on the injured list, Readman had won six of his previous seven starts and was sporting a 2.1 goals-against average.
Fulton says he expects Readman to remain a leader in the dressing room.
“[Readman’s] such a good guy in the dressing room, so we’ll have him around and he’ll help these goalies as well,” says Fulton. “He’s still a big part of what we do here.”
As a result of Readman’s absence, the Canucks have acquired Justin Samra of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League’s (VIJHL) Peninsula Panthers, who play out of North Saanich, B.C., to fill his spot. Backup goaltender Colten Anderson – who has been playing through his own lower body injury – and affiliate goaltenders Michael Chute and Kaden Bouchard have been filling in for Readman, and can’t be blamed for the Canucks’ poor record in December, according to Fulton.
He says adding Samra to the lineup should bring stability to the club’s backend as the playoffs near.
“Our goalies that stepped in didn’t do a bad job – our team didn’t play well around them,” noted Fulton whose club went 1-7 after Readman’s injury. “Your team plays confident when they feel good about what’s in the net all the time and we just didn’t have that feeling.”
Samra’s first test came Friday night in a 7-2 loss to the Grande Praire Kings, who have been giving NWJHL goaltenders fits all season as the league’s top-scoring team.
The VIJHL import, who left the Panthers with a 3-1 record, faced 54 shots including 20 in the first period against the Kings. While he didn’t get the win on Friday, Fulton feels Samra is up to the task between the pipes.
“I have absolutely zero problems with him right now. He battles for the puck, comes out of his net, he’s aggressive, he talks to our defenceman, and he’s good in our dressing room – you can tell that already,” said Fulton after Samra backstopped the Canucks’ win against the Vipers Saturday night, turning aside 29 shots.
Samra says joining the Canucks mid-season comes with its challenges but as he settles into his role he looks forward to helping the team finish out the regular season and into the playoffs.
“Obviously it will be tough because I don’t know all the guys and it will be hard communicating, but once we get rolling it will be easy,” he said.
“It’s obviously tough coming in [to fill Readman’s spot],” said Samra. “I’ve checked his stats and he had some great stats so hopefully I can come in and just help the team win.
“As long as we win that’s the main thing. It’s about playing my own game and just stopping the puck as best I can and getting the win.”
Fulton added that Colten Anderson has recovered from his injury, giving the benchboss two healthy, capable options.
“It makes it better for us knowing that we have two people that we can go to when the time comes,” he said.
Fulton wouldn’t say which goalie will get the majority of playing time, or how he plans on rotating the two. He did, however, note that he likes both his ‘tenders coming to the rink ready to play every night, and they don’t often know who is getting the start until he has seen them in warmup.
The Junior Canucks are on the road this weekend against the Fairview Flyers on Friday and the North Peace Navigators on Saturday. The Canucks next home game is Jan. 25 versus the Flyers.