Auld aware of pressure

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 4:32 PM ET


 Alex Auld comes from a family that knows all about maintaining poise and handling pressure.

 After all, his father was a helicopter test pilot for the Canadian Armed Forces, risking his life every time he went to work.

 "When you're told, 'there's something wrong with this helicopter, see what you think,' that's a different kind of pressure," laughed the 23-year-old Canucks netminder.

 "It's in the blood a little. Funny thing is, my mom said my dad wasn't too calm the other night."

 Neither was anybody in western Canada as 52 shots were fired on Auld during the Canucks' 5-4 triple OT win, forcing tonight's seventh game.

 A third-stringer who was eating stale popcorn in the press box during Game 3, the Manitoba Moose grad was thrust into the NHL spotlight hours before Game 5 when Marc Crawford named the playoff neophyte the Canucks surprise starter after Dan Cloutier got hurt and Johan Hedberg lost the coach's faith.

 Following two decent outings, including a stellar overtime effort in which he made 19 saves including a game-saving poke-check on Martin Gelinas, Auld was named the team's starter for tonight's tilt.

 "Things change in a hurry -- I learned that long ago," laughed the incredibly poised Thunder Bay native, who moved around plenty as an army brat.

 "I better have my head around it. I just embraced the opportunity and had fun with it. I felt good pretty much the whole game."

 Even when things crumbled around him and his club saw a 4-0 lead evaporate, he showed poise beyond his years.

 "I don't think he experiences the emotion and fear other people do," said Canucks GM Brian Burke, who obviously sees the 6-ft. 4-in., netminder as Vancouver's goalie of the future.

 "That's what's so distinct about him -- he's so calm and that's why he's been so successful. That was a very impressive display by a young goaltender."

 Drafted 40th overall by Florida in 1999, Auld went on to back up Maxime Ouellet at the 2001 World Juniors, winning bronze.

 He has since patiently bided his time in the minors and was called up twice this year to post a 2-2-2 record and .929 save percentage with a 2.06 GAA.

 One of his highlights was stopping Jarome Iginla on a penalty shot early on in a 3-1 Canucks win.

 Prior to his whirlwind playoff efforts this year he had 20 minutes of NHL playoff experience, which he says he learned a lot from.

 "I felt I used that experience (Saturday), drawing from the character and will of this club," said Auld, a backup who watched the Canucks battle back from a 3-1 series deficit against St. Louis.

 "It taught me a lot."


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