Colorado College’s net is suddenly empty. Not for an extra attacker — the lure of the professional ranks.
Tigers No. 1 goaltender Alex Leclerc signed an amateur tryout contract with the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL, a Colorado Avalanche affiliate, the organization announced late Thursday. He made his Grizzlies debut Friday night.
The junior is the fourth Tiger to go pro in the past two weeks, but by far the biggest surprise, as the other three were seniors. Leclerc will forgo his final year of eligibility.
“Sad to see him go, but it’s his choice and he’s earned that right,” CC coach Mike Haviland said.
“He’ll show everyone at the next level what he can do.”
According to CC, the Longueuil, Quebec, native will wrap up his degree in international political economy in only three years and graduate in May.
His overall record at CC was 38-55-12, and he leaves the program ranked fourth in career saves percentage (.908) and shutouts (8), fifth in saves (3,025) and eighth in victories (38). He was all-National Collegiate Hockey Conference honorable mention this year.
Haviland said they began discussing his departure when the season ended. It’s a conversation he’s used to.
“Could have been (Nick) Halloran last year, could be Bryan Yoon next year,” Haviland said. “I was sad to see Jaccob Slavin go. I’ll be sad to see Bryan go.”
It’s back to the drawing board in net for a team that relied heavily on Leclerc’s saves — all 1,140 of them, tops in the country — en route to its first NCHC playoff series win and Frozen Faceoff appearance.
Alec Calvaruso, once thought of as Leclerc’s heir apparent, returned to juniors in December. The only goaltender on the roster is sophomore Jon Flakne, who has spent just 23:24 in net in college and has never started.
There’s a goaltender waiting in the wings — the Aberdeen Wings, specifically — with an impressive pedigree. Matt Vernon, son of two-time Stanley Cup and 1997 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Mike Vernon, has had a breakout year in the North American Hockey League, and is expected to join the Tigers in the fall. Vernon, 20, is 5-foot-11, 170 pounds. His father was also a goaltender.
Haviland said the team is also looking at bringing in another goaltender. For the first time in two seasons, there’s wide-open competition ahead.
“The net’s open,” he said. “Whoever steps up is going to be the guy running the cage.”