Colorado College goaltender Alex Leclerc believes in being flexible, and not just in the obvious sense.
If all goes to plan, the buildup to a weekend series is relatively calm. He has a pregame snack, tapes his stick, jokes around and warms up with a game of racquetball with backup Jon Flakne.
But if something has to change — say, travel gets pushed back a day due to a historic blizzard, and so does the practice schedule — you can’t be ritual-bound, too set in your ways.
“You don’t want to overthink stuff,” Leclerc said. “You play with your instincts.”
Those instincts have served Colorado College, and the junior himself, well the past several years, and especially the past few weeks. The Tigers have allowed seven goals in six games, including Leclerc’s 30-save shutout of No. 6 Denver last weekend that clinched the Gold Pan trophy.
He earned back-to-back National Collegiate Hockey Conference goaltender of the week honors, and his exploits can be found on league highlight reels. He was named all-conference honorable mention Wednesday and one of four finalists for Goaltender of the Year.
He’s started all but one game in net for CC (15-17-4, 9-12-3 NCHC) for the second straight year. He’s second in the country in minutes played (2,079 — though the number of games vary) and will likely become the nation’s third goalie to cross the 1,000-save threshold with his next one. He leads the NCHC in both categories.
“I’ve been very honored to play as many games as I’ve played,” Leclerc said. “I want to be the same person to be put in those situations the upcoming weekends.”
Words like “steady” and “consistent” are often used in the same breath. But coach Mike Haviland said this is as confident as he’s ever seen the Longueuil, Quebec, native, right before Colorado College begins the postseason at Western Michigan (20-13-1, 13-10-1-1 NCHC).
“If you have a goaltender, anything can happen,” Haviland said. “Defense is gonna win it for you.”
In a hostile environment, such as Magness Arena last weekend, where the student section is often hurling profanities from right behind him, Leclerc ignores them or adjusts the cheers, quietly.
That could be necessary at Lawson Arena, where Leclerc said “the crowd is very involved.”
Student tickets are usually free, but since the tournament is sanctioned by the NCHC, the price jumped $5. Western Michigan coach Andy Murray this week offered to cover the cost for the first 1,000 fans Saturday with a ticket stub from the previous night, and an anonymous donor upped the ante, offering 1,000 free tickets Friday.
In all likelihood, the building will be rocking. According to Leclerc, that’s “what Lawson Arena does best.”
But he’s got his own agenda.
“There’s no better feeling than to silence a crowd,” he said.