Visentin destroys shutout record

IceDogs goaltender Mark Visentin looks down ice during a game against the Greyhounds at Essar...

IceDogs goaltender Mark Visentin looks down ice during a game against the Greyhounds at Essar Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Feb. 18, 2012. (RACHELE LABRECQUE/QMI Agency)

DAVE POLLARD, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:20 PM ET

TORONTO - Truth be told, I donít think even Mark Visentin saw this coming.

With four shutouts in his first three seasons combined, all coming last year, itís unlikely the Niagara IceDogs goalie headed into 2011-12 expecting to break the OHL record for blankings, a high-water mark set by Don Lockhart of the Toronto Marlboros way back in 1949-50.

But, after posting 10 shutouts in 37 games, Visentin has erased Lockhartís name from the league record book. And with nine games left in the regular season, heís got the opportunity to pad his shutout total and set the bar high enough that his record will last 60-plus years, too.

For now, though, Visentin is looking past all those zeros, even though six of the shutouts have come in his last 12 starts.

ďYeah, to me itís still kind of surreal, how it kind of came so quickly,Ē Visentin said. ďItís really a good record for my team to have and speaks volumes to how great our team is in front of me. Honestly, it hasnít set in one bit and I donít really think about it too much. My first two years I didnít have one shutout, which was disappointing, then last year I had four. I really donít know how to explain it.

ďI think once the year is over and the summer comes along, it will be something I look back at and be proud of it.Ē

Visentinís hot streak, which started more than three months ago when he stopped 29 of 30 shots in a win over the Brampton Battalion, has been nothing short of incredible. Although his string of consecutive games without a regulation loss ended at 20 when the Mississauga St. Michaelís Majors hung a 3-2 loss on him last week, Visentin hasnít allowed more than three goals in a game since Remembrance Day. Heís lowered his goals-against average to a league-best 2.08 and upped his record to 26-8-0-2.

Right now, all that means nothing to the 19-year-old from Waterdown.

ďAs long as we win, Iím happy,Ē he said. ďI donít like to call it (getting in a) zone, I like to be focused every day. Iím the type of guy that once I play a game, I like to put it behind me. I learn from the mistakes I make. With this run, to me itís not a big deal, I just want to make sure I play the best I can every night, do the best I can to help the team win. Try to stay even-keeled and take it day by day.Ē

Itís that kind of attitude that has helped Visentin avoid being crushed by the weight of Team Canadaís failure at the last two world junior tourneys. Visentin was in net for Canadaís meltdown against the Russians in the 2011 final then, coincidentally, shut out the Finns in the bronze-medal game this year.

The long finger of blame shouldnít be pointed at Visentin alone but his critics werenít shy about offering opinions on his ability to stop the puck, particularly after the Buffalo Boondoggle. And thatís too bad, because weíre certainly seeing what heís capable of this year.

Doesnít matter to Visentin, though. Heís got all the nay-sayers tuned out.

ďI only like to control the things I can control. I canít control what other people think and, to be honest, itís not really a big deal what other peopleís opinions are,Ē Visentin said. ďWhen people donít believe in me, itís too bad because Iím going to keep working harder each year to get better and better. For me, the world juniors were good experiences and I only took the positives out of each of them.

ďWhen you play in two world junior tournaments for your country, you really learn a lot. It definitely helps you as an individual. The thing I try to do is use it to motivate me to get better.Ē

Sheesh, if Visentin gets any better this year, the IceDogs are going to be as close to unbeatable as you can get.

HAMILTON, AGAIN

Plenty of talk lately about the lease-less Erie Otters shuffling off to Hamilton before the 2012-13 season.

And I just donít get it.

Sure, the Otters might be looking for a new home. When thereís this much smoke, thereís sure to be fire, despite denials by all parties involved, including OHL commish David Branch.

But, really, Hamilton is owner Sherry Bassinís destination of choice? How many times has the OHL been down that road before?

The Hammer has been home to a handful of OHL teams, most recently the Dukes of Hamilton (and before that the Steelhawks, the Red Wings and the Fincups). The gawd-awfully named Dukes pulled up stakes after two forgettable seasons and moved up Highway 6 to Guelph, where they became the Storm.

Past teams have found Hamilton inhospitable, for the long run anyway, and I donít see whatís changed over the last 20 years.

The Hamilton Mountain Arena is too small (2,500 capacity) and Copps Coliseum isnít the answer for a junior team. Unless a new arena is coming, it makes little or no sense for the Erie franchise to relocate to Hamilton.

But, hey, what do I know?

dave.pollard@canoe.ca

twitter.com/pollardOHL


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