Sean Guerin got his start as a goaltender for the same reason many goalies do.
“I became a goalie when I was 6; I just liked the way the pads look,” the 16-year-old from the Chicago suburb of Palos Heights, Ill., said with a smile. “That’s something I think a lot of goalies like to say. And I liked the fact that you play the whole game. There’s a lot of pressure behind it. You can make or break a game.
“As soon as I put the pads on, I never looked back.”
Guerin has come a long way in his 10 years between the pipes, from AA travel-team hockey in Chicago to playing AAA Midget hockey for the Indy Jr. Fuel program in Indianapolis the past two seasons, he said he has learned and developed at every stop.
He hopes his next stop is in Rochester.
Guerin was among more than 50 players competing in the Rochester Grizzlies’ main tryout camp over the weekend at the Rochester Recreation Center. And his performance at the camp, coupled with the two months he spent here practicing with the team last year, could go a long way toward determining his playing time this season.
It has certainly helped his comfort level and confidence.
“I do want to shoot for that No. 1 (goalie) job this year, be a key player for Rochester,” said Guerin, who won’t turn 17 until late November. “I know I’m young, but I feel like I have a chip on my shoulder.”
The Grizzlies signed two goalies to tenders prior to the start of this season: Guerin and 18-year-old Mathias Backstrom, who grew up in Sweden and played the past three seasons for the Malmo Redhawks of the Super Elit League. Both were at the Grizzlies’ camp over the weekend, both performed well and they bonded quickly.
“Mathias is a really good goalie and if we’re able to compete this year, it would be a really fun experience,” Guerin said, “and make us both better hockey players and make the team better.”
‘WILLING TO PAY HIS DUES’
Getting better is the biggest reason why Guerin jumped from the Indy Jr. Fuel to join the Grizzlies back in January. He spent the final two months of the North American 3 Hockey League season in Rochester, working out and practicing with the Grizzlies, but did not appear in any games.
“That’s not typical,” Grizzlies head coach Chris Ratzloff said, “but it shows his desire to play, his character and what type of player he is that he’s willing to pay his dues and look ahead for his opportunity.”
Guerin said he spent most of this summer working out and skating with friends close to home, near Chicago, and preparing for this past weekend’s main camp. He also was invited to the Austin Bruins’ main camp a month ago and had a chance to play against North American Hockey League-level players.
“I went to their camp, didn’t make the cut, but took what the coaches said and got a chip on my shoulder to come and make an impression at Rochester’s camp, hopefully make the roster and stay on it the rest of the year,” he said. “Austin’s camp was a great experience, it definitely prepared me for this (past) weekend, a great experience overall.
“I learned the little things that guys can do to separate them from being an NAHL player or an NA3HL player. Now that I have the gist of what makes the difference, I know what I have to do to get back to the NA level.”
The Grizzlies’ coaching staff said they’re excited to see the competition for the starting goalie job play out – and that they don’t expect to lock in on one starter, but rather have multiple goalies who push for ice time.
“Sean’s been a good surprise for me,” Ratzloff said. “He has been really good in camp, made some big saves, come up big. I’ve been really impressed.
“We’re not really looking for a No. 1 and a No. 2. We want kind of a 1 and 1A, guys who’ll push each other.”