March 18, 2014
TORONTO- Prospect Christopher Gibson is taking advantage of the opportunity at hand with veteran goaltender Drew MacIntyre currently out of the picture.
The 21-year-old got back-to-back starts this weekend for the first time with Toronto and stopped 56-of-58 combined shots, leading the Marlies to victories over the Rochester Americans and Hamilton Bulldogs.
“I’m really happy to get two starts,” said Gibson. “I never expected two starts in a row at all this year…More games you play the better you feel.”
“I thought Christopher Gibson, again, was stellar in net. And it’s nice to see some of the young goalie prospects coming through the system,” Marlies head coach Steve Spott added after defeating Hamilton.
In six starts for the Marlies, Gibson, who was signed to an entry-level contract by Toronto in the summer, has gone 5-1-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average and .953 save percentage. He has yet to give up more than two goals in any start and is on a personal four-game win streak.
Gibson missed action in January because of a lower-back injury and after rehabbing it in Toronto, he was sent to Orlando of the ECHL for conditioning. He showed no signs for concern when he returned to the Marlies on Feb. 8 in a 4-1 win over the Lake Erie Monsters, which was his first AHL start since a 3-1 win against the Charlotte Checkers on Dec. 20.
The native of Finland admitted, however, that he was lacking confidence upon his return and the start against Lake Erie helped put him back on track.
“It was tough,” Gibson said about dealing with his injury. “I was really nervous (when I returned). I told (Tyler) Biggs before the game my hands were shaking.”
Currently there is no timeline for MacIntyre to return to the Marlies because it is based on how severe of a lower-body injury Jonathan Bernier is dealing with and how long he will be out of the Leafs lineup.
In the meantime, the Marlies have Gibson and 20-year-old Garret Sparks, who was re-called from Orlando.
Spott says the plan is to use both rookie goalies as long as MacIntyre is not around and Sparks, who the Leafs drafted 190th overall in 2011, could be back in for Toronto’s next game against the Monsters.
“We don’t know how long it’s going to be, but Garret Sparks will get another opportunity,” said Spott. “We’ll discuss it with management, maybe it’s Wednesday (against Lake Erie).”
In 12 starts with the Marlies Sparks is 6-5-0 with a 2.69 goals-against average and .915 save percentage.
While neither are ready to make the jump to the NHL anytime soon, Spott believes having the two prospects compete with each other for playing time bodes well for both the player and the club at this point of development.
“It’s nice for these two young guys and the future of the organization,” said Spott.
Both netminders have shared duties this season backing up MacIntyre and starting for Orlando.