"Do you not see my moustache?" Binnington, NHL Central Scouting's No. 3 North American goaltender in its final rankings for the 2011 Entry Draft, joked Saturday morning prior to his splendid 29-save shutout in the Attack's 5-0 win against the Kootenay Ice at the MasterCard Memorial Cup here at the Hershey Centre.
Binnington, the lone Attack player sporting a smooth face during the postseason, then tugged at a few tiny hairs on his chin. He claims he last shaved about 75 days ago.
Naturally, teammates mock Binnington, especially the Attack's other two goalies, Scott Stajcer
and Michael Zador
"Stajce and Zade, they're just kind of rude," Binnington said.
But it's all in jest. The three are tight.
Three-goalie systems rarely work, but this one has succeeded. The friendships have helped the Attack's odd situation, something coach Mark Reeds
jokingly called "Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster," the title of 1964 Japanese film about a three-headed dragon.
"We all got to get along," Binnington said. "We can't get down on each other. We're all just pretty much pushing each other and all working hard practicing, encouraging each other, which is awesome."
Zador added: "We're definitely all close because we're pretty much all going through the exact same situation. We've got each other."
Incredibly, each goalie played a significant role in the Attack's run to the Memorial Cup.
"We've had three real quality kids, and the professionalism they've all shown throughout the playoffs as far as teammates, they support one another," Reeds said. "That's a difficult situation I think sometimes for teenagers to be in. If they wanted to be an individual, they should play golf or tennis."
How did the Attack get to this point? The 19-year-old Stajcer, a 2009 fifth-round pick of the New York Rangers
, underwent hip surgery in November. With Stajcer’s status unclear, the Attack acquired the 20-year-old Zador, a 2009 fifth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning
, from the Oshawa Generals to pair with Binnington.
Stajcer, who signed with the Rangers earlier this week, eventually returned, creating the odd situation. If one player began pouting, the situation could have become toxic. Instead, the three have forged closer relationships.
The situation probably has worn more on Reeds than the goalies.
"I think it's tougher on him than it is for us," Stajcer said. "All three of us obviously want to play every game. But when he names the starting goalie, we're happy and comfortable for our team. We all can get the job done."
Binnington was at his best Saturday during the second period, stopping 15 shots, including a left pad save when Kootenay's Cody Eakin
, a Washington Capitals
prospect, roared in. Eakin then got knocked into Binnington, and the goalie stayed on the ice several moments.
"I just needed a little break, a little breather," Binnington said.
He might not get another break in net if he keeps stopping everything. Reeds had remained tight-lipped about his starting goalie, but he finally notified Binnington with a text message Saturday.
"I don't normally get shutouts, so it was pretty exciting when the buzzer went," Binnington, who has just one shutout in two OHL seasons, said.
Reeds added: "That's what we expect from all our goaltenders when they get the opportunity to play. We expect them to make the best of their opportunity."
Robby Mignardi scored twice for the Attack. Florida Panthers
prospect Garrett Wilson
, Roman Berdnikov and Andrew Fritsch
also had goals.
The only rough moment for the Attack came with 5:35 left in the game, when Kootenay defenseman Brayden McNabb
, a Buffalo Sabres
prospect, elbowed 37-goal scorer Joey Hishon
, the 17th pick of the 2010 Draft by the Colorado Avalanche
, in the face, earning a five-minute elbowing major and a game misconduct. The play will be reviewed and McNabb could face a suspension.
Hishon did not return to the game, and Reeds had no update on Hishon's condition after the game. Owen Sound next plays Monday, against Saint John.
Today at the Memorial Cup, the host Mississauga St. Michael's Majors — who are owned by Senators proprietor Eugene Melnyk — face off against the Ice (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet), with both teams trying to avoid an 0-2 start to the tournament.