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Idaho's quiet man making noise in nets

by Lindsay Kramer
When he wants to get away from it all during the summer, Richard Bachman's preferred method of escape is to load up his Ford F-150 and drive deep in the Colorado wilderness for some camping, hiking and fishing.

"There's something about being out in nature," he said. "You get away from the lights and noise. It takes you away from the TV, cell phones. I get enough of that 10 months of the year."

Friends are welcome, but with one condition: there is a lot of down time to be filled with conversation, and Bachman would rather not talk about hockey.

"Everyone is always asking how hockey is going," he said. "I'll answer the questions and stuff, but I won't try to keep the conversation going. There's always something to be asked."

And this season, Bachman keeps coming up with the right answer to the biggest query of all: does he have a place in the brimming basket of Dallas Stars' goaltending prospects?

The Idaho Steelheads stopper is a chatty sort, but numbers speak louder than words. He's posted a 17-5-3 record, paces the ECHL with a 2.20 goals-against, is fourth with a .912 save percentage and tied for second with three shutouts.

"'Backs' has been very good. Right from the get-go, he's settled in," Steelheads coach Derek Laxdal said. "He's not very far off from settling in as an American Hockey League goalie. He's been a great professional. He's a quiet battler."

Sometimes very quiet. If you somehow wrangled a spot in the Idaho dressing room a few minutes before faceoff of a game Bachman was playing, you'd see him statue-still in his stall, zoned out with his eyes shut tight. The insides of his eyelids are screens on which he previews exactly how he expects to play minutes later.

"A lot of it as a goalie is muscle memory. I try to get my mind into it," he said. "The first thing I do is images of me moving through the crease. Then I'll work into butterfly pad slides. Once I do that, I'll imagine some low shots, putting the puck in the corner with good rebound control. It helps your mind. I kind of know where I'm going and know what I'm doing before I do it."

As much as Bachman tries, there is one image he can't erase even if he wanted to: the long line of talented netminders hovering around his crease. The Steelheads already have Rejean Beauchemin, who is tied for the league lead in wins (21) and is tied for third in goals-against (2.70). The balance has been tricky for Laxdal, but the payoff huge for Idaho. The Steelheads pace the ECHL with a .728 points percentage.

"We were really lucky to have a real solid one-two punch in net. We've been using both guys equally," Laxdal said. "It's been working for us all year. I make sure I let them know what I'm doing."

Bachman, 22, stuck his head above water long enough to get some looks with Texas of the AHL, going 3-3, .927. 2.07. Great numbers, for sure, but not sharp enough to slice through the regular tandem of Matt Climie and Brent Krahn.

"I definitely would have liked to have stayed up there. But it's a numbers thing," he said. "Right now, the numbers aren't in my favor. I try not to get caught up in, why am I here instead of there?"

Such simplicity has always been at the core of Bachman's attraction to the position. As a young player growing up in Saranac Lake, N.Y., he fell in love with it after making a glove save on the very first shot he faced in practice.

"I was hooked," Bachman said. "I don't know how it would have been if I didn't stop it. I might have thought I didn't want to be a goalie."

That mindset would have robbed Colorado College of two years of standout play in 2007-08 and 2008-09. In contrast to where Bachman finds himself now he was a workhorse there, playing in 70 games combined.

Bachman, a fourth-round pick by Dallas in 2006, thought that was enough of a springboard to get him started on a pro career after his sophomore season. He was right, but also wonders if he might have gone all revisionist had he known that pro splash was going to start in the ECHL.

"It's tough to look back, to think how you would have handled that," he said of the chance to second-guess himself. "I'm happy where I am. It's been good. But I could have played in school another year. I don't know if that would have helped me (in hockey) after I graduated. Instead of being 24, 25 when I started, I'd rather be 22."

It's hard to dispute that line of thinking, especially when his professional growth needs to sprout far beyond where his physical development has stopped. Bachman's 5-foot-10, 172-pound frame makes him a wisp of a stopper, although one, like many others his size, who is both combative and measured in net.

"'Backs' has been very good. Right from the get-go, he's settled in. He's not very far off from settling in as an American Hockey League goalie. He's been a great professional. He's a quiet battler."
-- Steelheads coach Derek Laxdal on goalie Richard Bachman

"I learned at an early age to work on mental preparation. You have to be right on as a smaller guy," he said. "If I make a mistake, there's more of a chance of it going in. I've learned to deal with (the skepticism). It's a challenge. It makes you work harder."

With Beauchemin lurking around to scarf up minutes as the games become more important, that persistence will pay off if it merely helps Bachman keep pace.

"For me, the numbers are great, but no one cares about your numbers. It's all about if you win," he said. "I'm OK with the rotation. You have to be ready to go, go at any time. I just use that time off to prepare myself."

Bachman knows what else he has to get ready for later on. The only downside to the season he's turning in is the way it will steer the conversation when he tries to put it all behind him this summer.

"I know, I know. I'll take it. I guess I'm going to have to answer them," he said of his friends' curiosity. "I'll be able to talk about hockey for a long time. Maybe I'll take one or two days off, instead of 10 or 12."

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