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Poulin Shuts Down Opposition

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
To date, Bridgeport Sound Tigers rookie goaltender Kevin Poulin has made an outstanding debut. In the last two weeks, the 20-year-old has recorded the first two shutouts of his professional career as he blanked the Portland Pirates 3-0 on Nov. 21 (making 29 saves) and shutout the Norfolk Admirals 3-0 (making 40 saves) one week later.

“My first pro shutout (Nov. 21) was an unbelievable feeling,” Poulin said. “It took me three years to have one shutout in junior and it took only eight games for me to have one in the AHL. It was pretty exciting. It’s really an honor. I didn’t expect that for the first part of the season.”

Since making his professional debut October 15, the Montreal, Quebec native has recorded 6 wins (more than half of the Sound Tigers wins this season) and 3 losses in 9 games for a 1.98 goals against average and .939 save percentage. Those statistics rank Poulin sixth among all AHL goaltenders in goals against average and is tied for fourth in save percentage.

“If you could say one thing special about him, he has the ability to make game changing saves to change the momentum of the game,” Sound Tigers head coach Pat Bingham said. “He’s confident. He’s at the top of his crease. He’s controlling his rebounds and when the team needs him to, he’s capable of making a spectacular save and that always gives a team a huge boost.”

While his record speaks for itself, Poulin said he is still learning in his rookie season.

“It’s been a learning year for me,” Poulin said. “The guys are better, faster and more accurate too. I’m concentrating on not changing, but instead adapting to those things and working harder.”

He began playing hockey when he was four, but didn’t start playing between the pipes until he turned 11.

“My first year (as a goaltender), my idol was Dominik Hasek,” Poulin said. “He was spectacular and kind of all over the place. I was kind of like that too. I didn’t have any style yet. But as I got older and time went on, Patrick Roy was more of an idol and a reference for me.”

While Poulin said he doesn’t play like Roy (a four-time Stanley Cup Champion), watching the Hall of Famer helped him develop his own unique style. He’s positionally sound, but acrobatic at the same time.

Bingham said that he noticed the netminder’s tremendous athletic ability when he first saw him at rookie camp. But since turning pro, Poulin’s talent is only one piece of the puzzle. His determination to do his best and be the best makes his teammates feel comfortable and confident when he’s in net.

“He just plays with tremendous confidence,” Bingham said. “He’s not cocky or overconfident. He’s just very confident in his abilities. He brings that to the ice every day and he brings that to the games, which in turn breeds confidence from the team in front of him.”

The Islanders selected Poulin in the fifth round (126 overall) of the 2008 Entry Draft, but before joining the Sound Tigers during the 2010 preseason, Poulin played for the Victoriaville Tigres of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

“The first time I saw Kevin was at one of the summer rookie camps,” Bingham said. “He was just a teenager and he didn’t really know what pro hockey was all about, but he certainly got a taste that week. Then he went back to junior and he got himself in very good shape and had an outstanding junior career from that time forward.”

In his fourth season (2009-10) with Victoriaville, the 6’2” 210-pound net-minder would go on to earn career bests in games played (54), shutouts (7), goals against average (2.63), save percentage (.916) and wins (35). The 35 wins in his final season with the Tigres gave Poulin 81 wins, a career all-time record high among Victoriaville goaltenders.

That determination to get himself physically fit to play professional hockey and to have such an outstanding year in Victoriaville is just one example of Poulin’s drive. Now every day at practice, Poulin works his hardest to stop every puck, which helps him stay sharp when he sees game action as the Sound Tigers rotate between Poulin, Mikko Koskinen and Nathan Lawson.

That competitive spirit brings out the best in his teammates as well.

“When you have a guy as competitive and athletic as he is, it only breeds competitiveness,” Bingham said. “It brings out the best with our other goalies and everyone else around them. It’s nice to have that youthful exuberance on our team, which he brings every day.”

As a result, the young goaltender knows that he is doing everything he can right now to get himself to where he wants to be, a starting goaltender for the New York Islanders. But he knows there isn’t a rush, he’s working on his game and taking every day one step at a time.

“This year, I just want to earn the most playing time, have the most wins and play the best I can,” Poulin said. “Long term, I hope to play in the NHL with the Islanders. I don’t know when I’ll make it, if it will be one year from now, two years, three years. I can’t control that. The only thing I can control is the way I play.”
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