Oldie goalies meet in East final

Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson reacts after giving up the game-winning goal during the second...

Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson reacts after giving up the game-winning goal during the second overtime against the Penguins during Game 4 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal series in Tampa, Fla., April 20, 2011. (MIKE CARLSON/Reuters)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:26 PM ET

The goalies in the Eastern Conference final have a combined age of 78.

They have taken long roads to get where they are now, within eight wins of a Stanley Cup -- an unlikely scenario when Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins and Dwayne Roloson of the Tampa Bay Lightning were embarking on their professional careers oh, so long ago.

Their paths came close to crossing in the early 1990s when Thomas, coming out of high school in Flint, Mich., had narrowed his NCAA options to Michigan Tech, the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and, finally, the University of Vermont. Roloson was entering his junior year at UMass, so Thomas steered away from there, setting him on the path that would lead to the two goalies meeting now.

They both paid their dues after college. The Lightning is the eighth NHL organization for Roloson. Just 10 years ago, in 2000-01, Roloson was a member of the St. Louis Blues organization and didn't play a game in the NHL. He spent the season in the American Hockey League with their Worcester farm team.

Thomas played in the East Coast Hockey League, went to Europe, played in the old International Hockey League, went back to Europe, played in the American Hockey League, the IHL again, went back to Europe, played in the AHL, went back to Europe and came back to the Bruins in 2005-06. He played 26 games in the AHL that season.

Now he's the Vezina Trophy favourite this season.

Roloson was acquired from the New York Islanders at the trade deadline by the Lightning and had 18 wins in 34 games, including four shutouts. He leads the first-string goaltenders in the playoffs in save percentage.

They are two great stories of perseverance.

In the blue corner

Dwayne Roloson

Age: 41

College: University of Massachusetts-Lowell

Drafted: Never, signed as a free agent by the Calgary Flames

2011 playoff record: 8-3

Goals against average: 2.01

Save percentage: .941

In the black corner

Tim Thomas

Age: 37

College: University of Vermont

Drafted: 217th overall by the Quebec Nordiques in 1994

2011 playoff record: 8-3

Goals against average: 2.03

Save percentage: .937

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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