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Mutual Admiration Society

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
BOSTON -- Just call it a mutual admiration society.

Going into this evening's Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the starting goaltenders from the Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning each talked about the other as their clubs finished their final day of preparation.

"I think if age is a factor in any way, it's actually a benefit to both of us," said the B's Tim Thomas, 37, of the Bolts' Dwayne Roloson, 41.

"The experiences that we've been through just to get to these points in our career, they actually do help," said Thomas. "They do help in this playoff type atmosphere."

From afar, and unwittingly, Roloson actually helped Thomas along his career path.

"When I decided where I had to go to school, UMass-Lowell was one of the schools that recruited me," said Thomas of Roloson's alma mater. "Dwayne Roloson was a junior who was an All American who was returning as a senior the next year.

"The coach of UMass-Lowell, he was up front and said they wanted me to go there, but if I went, I could either redshirt or probably play max three games.

Thomas at the University of Vermont
"That's ultimately why I ended up going to Vermont, because I had a chance to play right away," he said

Then, when Thomas moved into the pro ranks, watching Roloson's own winding road to NHL success helped Boston's Vezina candidate keep hope alive.

"when I wasn't in the NHL, I was looking at Dwayne Roloson," said Thomas. "He made it to the NHL and I don't know how long it took him after he got out of college, but he really had to work his way up before he got those number one jobs

"He was a backup to [Dominik] Hasek. He was a backup in a couple places, and had to work his way up the ladder.

"I saw that he was doing it...[and] it's something that can give you hope," he said.

Roloson said he was pleased that Thomas had taken some inspiration from his story.

"It's great that he did," said Roloson. "We crossed paths -- we played against each other when Marty [St. Louis] was a freshman. Timmy was up in Vermont. During the lockout we played against each other.

"It's great to see what he's done. He's done a great job [to] battle through all the adversities that he's had to get here."

Roloson at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell
Both goaltenders have done a great job.

Thomas and Roloson take identical 8-3 postseason records into tonight's game, with the Tampa Bay goalie owning a slight edge in both save percentage (.941 to Thomas' .937) and goals against averages (2.01 to 2.03).

Like Thomas, Roloson said that he calls upon his experiences frequently.

"I think it's very valuable," said Roloson. "You can be thrown into almost any situation and can look back and say, Yeah, I can relate to this, or, Yeah, I've been through this before.

"I think when you are going through adversity, especially during playoff time, you can look back and say, Yeah, okay, don't worry about it, this is how it's going to happen, [let it] play out.

"You can deal with it and understand what's going to happen, not lose focus on your task at hand, and that's winning hockey games."

Thomas said that both he and Roloson's styles have evolved over the years in order to compete in the NHL.

"There are some similarities between me and Dwayne's style," began Thomas. "They're not obviously completely the same.

"I think it's a matter of you have to evolve to try to put yourself at the highest levels in this game.  I mean, I know a little bit of Dwayne's background.  I did play against him my freshman year when we were in college, saw his style back then.  Then I saw his style as it evolved...[and] now that style has changed even more, probably as a necessity of the new NHL, which changed my style again.

"I've been through actually a few style changes throughout my career out of necessity," explained Thomas. "I began to learn to play another way. 

"It probably turned into, just like it has for me and Dwayne Roloson, a hybrid [style] and I think the major force for the change in style in my career, and probably Dwayne's, is necessity," he said.

Those necessary changes have brought Roloson full circle and tonight they'll look to add yet another chapter to their story.

"You got to cherish and relish every moment of every situation," said Roloson. "So for me, nothing's changed.

"You have to enjoy it, have fun with it, do whatever you got to do to help your team win.

"The bottom line, if you can do that, you're going to have success."

As for his role in Thomas' success and for Tim's decision to go to UVM instead of UML, Roloson added, "You know, it's great for Tim. He had a lot of success in college.

"They had a lot of fun up there, I'm sure. I know when we played them, they were a heck of a hockey team up there. I think they spanked us.

"They had a great program and they still do. It's great to see."

To which Martin St. Louis, sitting on the riser next to his current teammate Roloson, added on behalf of his former teammate Thomas, "Thanks for that."
You can find the box score from Thomas' and Roloson's first meeting in college here. The game story and sidebar from the Burlington Free Press here. Thanks to the UVM Athletic Department and the Free Press for their help tracking these down. JB
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