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Bachman making significant progress in first year pro

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

He may have begun the season ranked fifth on the Dallas Stars organizational depth chart among goaltenders, but make no mistake, Richard Bachman is determined to keep climbing the list. 

After two years as one of the nation’s best NCAA goaltenders at Colorado College, Bachman left school last spring and has enjoyed an outstanding first season of professional hockey. He spent most of it with the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads, but is currently with the Texas Stars, Dallas’ top minor league affiliate based in the Austin suburb of Cedar Park, serving as the backup to Matt Climie.

The whole year has been a valuable learning experience for Bachman, and the higher education continues from his vantage point at the end of the bench, as Texas prepares for Game 1 of the AHL’s Calder Cup Finals against Hershey Thursday night,.

“I think it’s gone really well for me,” said Bachman, who compiled a 4-3-0 record in seven AHL appearances over two different call-ups during the regular season, including a shutout, with a 2.02 goals-against average and a stellar .933 save percentage. “Getting some time down there in Idaho was really good for me, just get some games in there, get some experience, kind of learn the pro game. It’s a little bit different than college, a little more controlled. So that was nice. Then, getting a few chances to come up here and play was great and I had a good experience with that. Also just practicing with these guys has really helped me be more patient. It’s been great so far.”

While Climie has been outstanding since taking over for injured starter Brent Krahn in Game 6 of the AHL Western Conference Semi-Finals, including a scintillating 41-save performance in Texas’ come-from-behind 4-2 victory in Game 7 of the Conference Finals in Hamilton Wednesday night, club management feels so confident in Bachman’s abilities, they wouldn’t worry at all if he were needed to step in.

“Richard came up here in the playoffs to back us up with Krahn’s injury, but he had a great year in the ECHL,” noted Texas Stars General Manager Scott White. “It’s a great league for developing goalies and he was solid. And his appearances here, I would have no problem with Richard Bachman being in our net in the playoffs. He wins, he competes, he’s athletic. I love his attitude and he’s only going to get better.”

“The couple of games he played for us, he was phenomenal, and I think he’s a battler,” added Texas coach Glen Gulutzan. “That’s what I can say, he’s a battler and he’s a quietly competitive guy, you can see the determination. You don’t always see it on his face, but you can see it in his play.”

At 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, Bachman may not have imposing size, and his style certainly isn’t flashy, but the 22-year-old native of Salt Lake City just keeps stopping the puck and winning games. 

After he was chosen in the fourth round (120th overall) by Dallas in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Bachman enjoyed a highly-successful freshman season at CC in 2007-08 in which he led the Tigers to the WCHA conference championship with a 25-9-1 record with four shutouts and set school records with a 1.85 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. That performance earned him the WCHA Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year honors. His sophomore year didn’t quite follow the same storybook script, but Bachman still had a solid year, going 14-11-10 with a 2.63 GAA and .914 SP and figured he was ready to go pro. 

This year in the ECHL, Bachman sparkled for Idaho, fashioning a 22-7-4 record in 35 appearances, with a league-best 2.28 goals-against average and four shutouts, along with a .910 save percentage, during a regular season in which the Steelheads finished with the league’s top record. 

He was first called up to Texas in December and spent 20 days with the AHL squad before heading back to Idaho. Bachman was summoned again on Feb. 14 and remained in Cedar Park through the end of the regular season in early April. 

“A lot of air miles,” he joked about going back and forth from the ECHL to the AHL this year. “My mindset is just to take advantage of every opportunity when I’ve been up here, and that’s what I’ve tried to do. When I go back down, I know it’s a time for me to fine-tune my game a little bit and learn some stuff, really just get some good experience, get in a rhythm down there. When you’re going back and forth, you just kind of have to go with it, take it all for what it’s worth and take advantage of it.”

Upon heading back to the Steelheads in April, Bachman helped get them started on a deep playoff run of their own, going 6-2 with a microscopic 1.59 goals-against average (good for second in the league) and a league-best .943 save percentage before suffering a minor injury in Idaho’s Conference Finals series against Stockton. 

“I got hurt in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals there, then I was cleared a couple of days later,” said Bachman, who also participated in the ECHL All-Star Game on January 20. “And then, as soon as I got cleared, I hopped on a plane, like a half-hour later, to come up here.  (Playing in the playoffs) was great, definitely a different atmosphere than the regular season.  Everyone amps it up a little bit, it gets intense, the rivalries get going in those best-of-seven series. It was a great experience to get some games down there.”

Ultimately, without Bachman, Idaho ended up losing the ECHL’s Kelly Cup Finals in five games to the Cincinnati Cyclones, but now that he’s in Texas, that’s where Bachman’s focus is. 

“Tough ending to a great season for them,” Bachman said of the Steelheads. “They lost by one goal every game. They battled, but that’s the way it goes sometimes... It’s been nice to be able to watch these guys battle up here and be a part of that on the ice and in practice with them and just see how they’re doing things.”

As well as he has performed at both levels this year, many expect Bachman to move up the ladder a notch or two in 2010-11, most likely spending the entire season in Cedar Park, with the possibility of a recall to the NHL at some point. Because the goaltending picture for the parent squad seems to be in flux heading into next year, there just might be that opportunity for Bachman to be in line for a recall if injuries hit Dallas.

“Definitely, that’s the goal in my mind and something I’d like to see happen,” Bachman said of that potential scenario. “I worked hard all season here to hopefully put myself in the best position for that next year. We’ll see what happens, but ultimately to play out here and hopefully to get a couple of games with the big team.” 

“Next year’s a big year for Bachs at this level,” Gulutzan acknowledged. “Obviously, every goalie has got to earn their position in the organization, but he’s done what he needed to do at the AA level and his next step is to do that here at the AAA level.” 

The way he has continued to progress and penchant for winning in just about every jersey he’s ever pulled on, Bachman’s future looks very bright indeed, even if he refuses to get caught up in just what the near future may hold.

“There’s a lot of things that can change and things happen every day, but that stuff’s out of my control,” Bachman said of his place on the depth chart. “I can’t control any of that, so I don’t worry about it really. When they want me to play, I’ll play, that’s kind of my mindset on everything.”

“He’s on the right path, how about that?” White declared. “That’s probably the best compliment I could give him.”

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