Perhaps there are teams where two battle-tested goalies vying for playing time works out about as well as a science project that goes horribly wrong.
But at St. Thomas, Drew Fielding and Tyrone Simcoe use the situation to their advantage. They are highly competitive, and share a mutual respect for each other on the ice. Off the ice, their friendship is rock solid.
“We have a great relationship because we both understand the situation,” said Fielding, a sophomore goaltender for the Tommies. “We support each other and motivate each other as much as possible, and we are very good friends.”
Simcoe, a senior goalie, echoes those thoughts.
“It’s been good for both of us because it really sparks the competitiveness in both of us,” Simcoe said. “We battle back and forth all of the time in practice, and we always pump each other up in games. The great thing about it is that he is one of my best friends off the ice.”
Their words are genuine. And if anyone needed further proof of that, just ask St. Thomas coach Jeff Boeser about the relationship between his two goalies.
“They truly have each other’s backs at all times,” Boeser said. “They are very humble, and always give the team credit when they win. They are willing to do whatever it takes for the team to have success.”
Each goalie has contributed in his own way for the Tommies, who are currently in first place in the MIAC with a 5-1 record, a strong start for a team hoping to win another conference championship.
Simcoe has played in five games, starting all five times, and has allowed six goals while tallying 89 saves.
Fielding has played in nine games, earning seven starts, and has given up 14 goals. He has racked up 196 saves.
Their success is a credit to the work they have put in during the off-season and in practice. It doesn’t hurt to have a top-notch goalie coach either.
“Their goalie coach is Jacque Vezina, who I believe is one of the top goalie coaches in the country,” Boeser said of a coach who played in the 2001 and 2003 NCAA tournaments with Wisconsin-River Falls. “He keeps them on track, and when they get off track, he gets them back where they should be quickly.”
Both players have made significant strides under the guidance of Vezina, and Fielding said one of his biggest improvements this season has been his ability to get a better grasp on the mental and physical aspect of playing college hockey.
Fielding played for the Markham Waxers of the Ontario Junior Hockey League before coming to St. Thomas.
“It was a tough start for me last year, but I am definitely more prepared physically and mentally,” Fielding said. “If I give up a goal or have a bad game, I have to be ready to put it behind me and get back to work. I always have to be ready to do what I can to give our team a chance to win the game.”
Simcoe went straight from Wayzata High School in suburban Minnesota to St. Thomas. Not only was he standout hockey player at the high school level, but he also played on a pair of doubles tennis teams that reached the state tournament, finishing third once and fourth another time.
In terms of improvement, Simcoe said his knowledge of the game has increased, and it’s helped him do a better job of keeping the puck out of the back of the net.
“I didn’t play junior hockey, so when I first got here, it took time to get used to the faster play,” Simcoe said. “I would say that now my hockey intelligence has gone up, and I do a better job of recognizing how the offense is playing. I’ve improved at seeing the ice, and it’s helped me become a better goalie.”
What can be overlooked in terms of the success of both goalies is that each one is tested in practice every day, not just by each other, but by an offense that has punched in 31 goals. Five players have scored three or more goals.
“As goalies and as a defense, we strive to give up two goals or less in every game,” Simcoe said. “Our forwards do a good job of pushing us, and we do our best to challenge them every day. All of it prepares us to be at our best in games.”
“We have a lot of good skill players on our team, and they test us every day,” Fielding said. “We know that because we face a good offense in practice, we are going to feel confident going into games.”
St. Thomas fell, 4-2, to St. John’s on Thursday night, and won’t play again until Jan. 5, when it battles Bethel at home.
The Tommies will have a conference title on their mind when they enter the second half of the season. They will also be aiming to win the MIAC tourney after falling short a year ago, and hope to make a return to the NCAA tournament.
Both goalies are dialed in to what they have to do to help the Tommies achieve their lofty goals.
“I know I just have to stay the course and keep pushing hard,” Fielding said. “I have to let the game come to me and keep playing well.”
Simcoe is focused on continuing to improve as well, and is looking forward to making the most of his final go-round at St. Thomas.
“I’m proud to be part of the great tradition here, and it is great how everyone on this team has bought into what we are trying to accomplish,” Simcoe said. “Our goal is to compete for a conference championship, and hopefully have a chance to compete for a national title. We just have to focus on each game and know that if we work hard, we will have a chance to succeed.”