Back to Basics: Behind the Mask with Evan Fitzpatrick
The crease is your only sanctuary. Your skill and confidence, your only allies. When you’re the last line of defence, there’s no place to hide.
Behind the mask your expressions and emotions are guarded and never exposed. Nerves and a lack of trust are the only aspects that make you vulnerable.
Goaltenders are always behind the mask, but they’re always in the spotlight.
For Evan Fitzpatrick, he’s had that spotlight on for his entire career.
Unfortunately, the spotlight can expose the slightest of imperfections. But the 20-year-old from St. John’s, Newfoundland, fully understands the spotlight and is starting to embrace it.
The St. Louis Blues second round pick in 2016 has stared down adversity throughout his four-year QMJHL career. But the veteran netminder relishes his career path thus far, and has settled in nicely to his new surroundings with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
“I started out in Sherbrooke when I was sixteen and obviously played there my whole career loving every second of it”, said Fitzpatrick. “I made so many good friends over the years and had great coaches. Their entire organization is first class.”
“I don’t have enough good things to say about Sherbrooke”, he added. “But the start of this year didn’t go how I wanted, so it was a mutual agreement to give me a fresh start somewhere else. I was lucky enough to get picked up by a contender.”
After the trade from the Phoenix, Fitzpatrick went back to basics to rediscover his game.
“I came into Bathurst and went back to the basics and had fun with it. I’m having the time of my life right now”, he admitted. “There isn’t a better group of guys that I’ve played with, that all want to win and that are all on the same page. The energy is really good here, I’m enjoying it and just trying to soak it all in.”
Fitzpatrick had been under the microscope given his numbers over the past few seasons in Sherbrooke. Although it’s now evident he has regained the poise, confidence and swagger of a number one goaltender, the veteran netminder did feel some added pressure and nerves after being acquired by the Titan.
“Definitely there was a little pressure, I felt it in my first game and I was nervous starting there. You always want to make a great first impression,” Fitzpatrick said. “After that first game, I settled in pretty good. I feel like I’ve been playing well and contributing when I have to”, confessed the Blues Prospect. “For me it’s just playing hard every second and leaving it all on the ice.”
Fitzpatrick credits none other than Titan goaltending coach David Kennedy for his improved performance during his brief time in Bathurst.
“He’s been great for me. I had great goalie coaches in Sherbrooke with J.-F. Labbé and Brad MacCharles”, explained Fitzpatrick. “But Dave, he’s really passionate about the game and really cares about Joe [Murdaca] and I.”
Fitzpatrick is also quick to credit what he believes to be the best defence corps in the QMJHL when it comes to his recent success.
“Our Top-4 are obviously unbelievable and could be number one d-men on any other team”, admitted Fitzpatrick. “And all of our other guys are very good and can play big minutes in their own right.”
“I’m enjoying it, they play so hard in front me I can’t get over it,” said Fitzpatrick of his blueliners’ performances. “They eliminate so much. They give the opposition one, maybe two options, and they bail me out so many times.”
After posting a 17-4 record in the regular season, as well as career-bests with a 2.24 GAA and .915% save percentage following his arrival in Bathurst, Fitzpatrick seems poised to carry his new team deep into the playoffs.
And after putting up two wins in eight postseason starts with Sherbrooke, Fitzpatrick has already matched that total in half of the games played with Acadie-Bathurst
While he may be behind the mask, all eyes are once again on him during the Titan’s 2018 playoff push… something he obviously learned to embrace.