Pogge feels no pressure

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

If that goaltending thing doesn't work out, Justin Pogge could have a future behind the bench.

With the Calgary Hitmen scouting staff electing to have a look at the club's younger goaltenders, the No. 1 man decided to coach Team Black during Monday's intrasquad game.

With his group trailing 10-7 in the dying minutes, Pogge yanked his goaltender and juggled his lineup, orchestrating two goals in a comeback that fell just short.

GM/head coach Kelly Kisio said the Penticton product, who did everything but draw up plays on the blackboard, looked like he was auditioning for a new role with the team.

"That's all I need is him making some plays at the end of the game to win it," Kisio joked.

Sounding like a seasoned bench boss, Pogge refused to blame his players for his 0-1 coaching record.

"It was a close one," Pogge said. "Sometimes you just come up short."

Pogge went back to his day job yesterday as the Hitmen continue to prepare for their exhibition opener Tuesday in Airdrie.

With a lack of scoring punch up front, the 19-year-old 'tender will be heavily relied upon. But he isn't feeling any added pressure.

"My job has always been to stop the puck," Pogge said. "And we're real lucky to have all our defencemen returning.

"As long as we keep the puck out of our net, we've got some skilled guys who can score."

The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect looks within himself for motivation, Kisio said.

"He puts pressure on himself to outplay the other guy at the far end of the rink and he has fun doing it," said Kisio, who acquired Pogge from Prince George at the trade deadline last January.

It's been a while since the Hitmen had a proven No. 1 goaltender heading into a season. The goaltending picture, with Daniel Spence as the backup, hasn't been this strong in years.

"Probably since we had Brent Krahn before he hurt his knee and that was about five years ago," Kisio said.

"It's nice to have two goalies who can play. They give us a chance to win every night and that's all you can ask."

Pogge was at his best last spring as he carried the Hitmen past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.

He posted a 1.94 GAA and a .928 save percentage during five games against Lethbridge and seven against Brandon.

"It's going to be exciting," Pogge said of the upcoming campaign. "It was a bit of an early exit from the playoffs but the fans really got behind us.

"I learned a lot during the playoffs and it has given me lots of confidence. I'll take that into this season."

Sounds good to Kisio.

"If it's a good year for him, it's going to be a good year for us."


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