Tuesday, February 16, 1999

Ducks goalie hopes NHL doors open up for him

Enquirer contributor

        After a recent game, Cincinnati Mighty Ducks goalie Tom Askey was told that a scout named Jim Morrison was at the game. Askey chuckled at the irony — every game he wears a T-shirt of the late Doors singer of the same name under his uniform — and added with a laugh, “Is he looking for a goalie?”

        While the Ohio State product may have been joking, there is underlying truth to his question.

        Askey is arguably the hottest goalie in the American Hockey League, but barring injury, Askey will likely play the entire season in Cincinnati. He is 9-3-1 with a 1.74 goals against average and .947 save percentage in 14 games since Jan.1, including an 8-1-0 mark and 1.67 goals against average and .948 save percentage in his last nine starts. But the Anaheim system is full of goalies.

        “I have no idea what it's going to take (to make it to the NHL),” said Askey, who overall is 15-11-3 with a 2.45 goals against average and .923 save percentage. “You can play great and still be down here. There's three expansion teams coming in, there's a lot of places to play. I'm playing well, I'm feeling good about my game, and I know I can play there (in the NHL). It's just a matter of time, I guess.”

        Anaheim didn't appear to have Askey in their plans this offseason. Askey finished the 1997-98 season with Anaheim, posting a 2.64 goals against average in seven games. But the Ducks traded for goalie Patrick Lalime in March, eventually signing him over the summer. They signed Jamie Ram in July with the purpose of him being Cincinnati's No. 1 goalie. When Lalime and Ram faltered as backups, Anaheim traded for Dominic Roussel.

        Admittedly frustrated by all the moves Anaheim has made, Askey hasn't let it affect his play. He has improved his technical play (fewer rebounds; squaring up better; doesn't allow late game-winning goals, a problem last season) and stepped up his off-the-ice work ethic. Anaheim management is definitely taking notice. Anaheim General Manager Pierre Gauthier left Cincinnati impressed with Askey after watching the goalie shut out Hamilton Feb. 5.

        “(Lalime and Ram) played better at the start of camp, but they also were given longer looks than Tom. Then after we picked up Dominic ... he could have easily said, "I'm in no man's land,'” Anaheim assistant GM David McNab said. “But he's gone and played terrific. He's forced everyone to realize maybe we were too quick, even in camp, to say he didn't deserve a longer look.”

        McNab said Anaheim intends to re-sign Askey, a Group II free agent after the season.

        “There's a lot of people watching,” Askey said. “I'd like to play for Anaheim, but if they don't want me playing for them, I'll play somewhere else.”


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