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Goaltender In Overdrive

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

Most fans of the Dallas Stars might not be that familiar with him, but those who follow college hockey are undoubtedly well-acquainted with Richard Bachman.

The goaltender for Colorado College, the Stars’ fourth round choice (120th overall) in the 2006 Entry Draft, took the NCAA by storm as a freshman in 2007-08, setting school records with a 1.85 goals-against average and .931 save percentage, while posting a stellar 25-9-1 record with four shutouts.

Bachman helped lead the Tigers to the regular season Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) championship, becoming just the second player in the 56-year history of the conference to earn Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year honors. Despite some post-season disappointment, as CC finished fourth in the WCHA playoffs and then fell to defending national champion Michigan State in their first-round NCAA tournament contest, Bachman enjoyed a breakthrough year.

“I worked hard all (last) summer and got my confidence up to go in and do the best I could with the opportunity I had, and so it just kind of kept coming week after week and I just had fun with it,” said Bachman, who also took home the National Rookie of the Year award for his efforts. “We had a strong defense and they kind of didn’t get a lot of credit throughout the year for all the work they put in, the little things they’ve done. I thanked them for everything they did for me. And then we got some timely scoring throughout the year, which was huge for us.”

While Bachman may have experienced more success and advanced faster than he or the Stars had anticipated, there’s no question that the 5-foot-11, 172-pound netminder will be returning to Colorado College for at least his sophomore year, if not all three remaining seasons of eligibility.

“Richard’s going back to college again this year,” Stars co-General Manager Les Jackson confirmed. “He had a good year last year, and I suspect that he has a good foundation that he’ll still take steps forward. He’s a real professional person and is determined to be a good goaltender at the college level, and then, I suspect that, with progression, he’ll take that same attitude and game to the pros. He’s done very well.”

Despite all that he achieved during his outstanding freshman year, Bachman knows there’s plenty left to prove in college.

“I think, going back, you have to try and set the bar even higher and match that year,” he said. “And this year coming up, hopefully win something in the NCAA’s, which was a goal of ours that we didn’t accomplish. You still have goals going back. You just want to work hard to get better, mature a little bit and learn more and more about the game, because there’s still a ton to be learned.”

Bachman had the opportunity to learn plenty at the Stars 2008 development camp, which featured 27 of Dallas’ top prospects, from July 7-11 at their practice facility in Frisco’s Dr Pepper StarCenter. Bachman, who celebrates his 21st birthday on Friday (July 25), saw a lot of value in both the on-ice sessions with Stars’ player development/goaltending coach Andy Moog, and the off-ice training with strength and conditioning coach J.J. McQueen.

“I come in here and just take a lot of information from a lot of different people,” Bachman said of his mindset at the camp. “You learn some new things about training, nutrition and that kind of stuff, and just playing with these guys that have been in the AHL and different leagues that you don’t see on a yearly basis. It’s nice to kind of see what you need to do to get to that next level and to progress your game even further.”

One of the objectives of the camp from the Stars’ point of view was for the players to receive suggestions and pointers from the coaches and management staff and take them back to their respective teams next season.

“No question, the coaches will have a chance to work with them,” said Stars Director of Player Personnel Dave Taylor. “The scouts have watched them over the course of the years, and they’ll break down their games and give them an evaluation and some of the things they’d like them to work on. For the most part, they go back to different organizations, but they’ll take some of the things, particularly the off-ice things - because a lot of these guys, as far as their maturity, they’re in very early stages - so they’ll take a lot of the things they work on with J.J. and bring that back and spend the rest of the summer working on their strength and conditioning.”

For Bachman, the fact that he plays in the NCAA means it will be a little easier for him to implement some of those suggestions, as the college schedule is heavily geared towards practicing. The regular season usually consists of about 30-35 games, with contests only on weekends and practices every weekday. That allows the college player much more time to work on things in practice than someone in major junior or the minors, where they play 70-plus games. 

“Definitely, that’s the nice thing about college,” Bachman acknowledged. “These guys, they’re on the road, they’re playing Wednesday, Thursday, different nights of the week, so it’s tough for them to be able to work out and stuff. And for me, I have five practices a week and a couple of workouts where I can focus on stuff and you know at Monday’s practice, you still have Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday to cover the stuff you want to focus on. So it’s nice being in college and learning some stuff here to take back with me.”

Bachman, who was born in Salt Lake City, Utah but grew up in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, also enjoys CC for several other reasons, including the flexibility he has in choosing a major.

“Right now I’m undecided, but I’m leaning towards economics with a business minor,” he revealed. “You can do a lot of stuff, I think that’s why I like it right now. It’s a fun school and all the guys are great and I’m going to take advantage of it while I can and just have some fun with it. It’s a beautiful area. It’s nice being back home in front of the family again.”

Even though he’s from Colorado, Bachman went away to prestigious Cushing Academy in Massachusetts for high school, where he graduated in 2006, the year Dallas drafted him. Then he actually took a year after that to play the 2006-07 in the USHL, the top junior league in the country. Clearly, taking that intermediate step helped prepare him well for the jump to the college game.

“I thought it was great, especially before college,” said Bachman, who went 14-10-2 in 26 games for Cedar Rapids, registering a 2.99 goals-against average, a .913 save percentage and four shutouts. “Playing the 60 games plus playoffs is nice and it’s a long season, it’s kind of a grind at times. I thought it helped me with my mental toughness a lot, riding on the bus for six, eight hours, stuff like that. I had great goaltending coaching in Cedar Rapids, which really, I thought, helped me and I was able just to focus my time strictly on hockey. I didn’t have school or anything and I thought it was a great step and really prepared me confidence-wise, and mentally, for college. I think a lot of guys are going that route.”

“Some guys might not be ready to go into college, they might need another year of high school or whatever,” Jackson said, advocating the move. “Some guys are maybe physically not mature enough to fit in there. It’s all about timing and being ready. College is a big step for lots of young kids and if you go in there too early and you end up not being prepared, that’s not a good sign. The US Junior League has been a real good feeder system for college and for pros. That league’s good, it’s competitive and it’s a real good stepping stone.”

Bachman actually wonders how much more he might have progressed if he’d accepted an offer to jump to the USHL a year sooner than he did.

“I had an opportunity to play two years, but I finished up high school back in Massachusetts,” he noted. “You kind of look back, and I loved graduating where I did, but two years in the USHL, who knows? It’s just such a good league right now, there’s a lot of guys going D1 and getting drafted, and it’s a small league, so you’re playing against great players every night. I think it’s a great step for a lot of players.”

Another Dallas prospect who is following the same path, literally, as Bachman is 18-year-old center Scott Winkler, the Stars’ third-round pick (89th overall) in last month’s Entry Draft. Not only will he skate in Cedar Rapids of the USHL this coming season, but Winkler already has a scholarship in place to attend CC in the fall of 2009.

Not surprisingly, Bachman has already begun to advise his future teammate and provide him with some insider’s guidance about the two destinations he will soon be heading to.

“He’s actually sitting right next to me in the locker room,” Bachman said of Winkler during the development camp in Frisco. “He’s going to Cedar Rapids, where I played too, so I’ll give him a little bit of advice about every place and tell him to have fun with it and always be confident and know you can play and just take whatever you can from everyone around you and just keep learning.”

If Winkler progresses at anywhere near the rate that Bachman has, there’s a good chance that both players will not only share a locker room in Colorado, but also in Dallas somewhere down the line.   

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