TORONTO– Mark Owuya hasn’t seen much action so far this season and the time he has been given, hasn’t gone the way he would have liked.
The Toronto Marlies goaltender is coming off a 4-2 loss to the Hershey Bears, a game in which he stopped only 15-of-19 shots, and in just three starts this year he is 1-2-0 with a 3.72 goals-against average and .820 save percentage.
“It’s three games and two losses. It’s two losses too many,” said Owuya. “I gotta keep on working and that’s really all I can do. I’ve done the right things. I just haven’t executed it 100 percent. You have to get the execution right, that’s what it’s all about.”
Last season, the 23-year-old Swede’s first in North America, Owuya split time between the ECHL’s Reading Royals and the Marlies.
In 29 games with Reading, Owuya put up a league best .930 save percentage and in four separate call-ups to Toronto he was just as solid, going 11-5-1 with a 1.94 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in 19 games.
Under the assumption Ben Scrivens would be playing with the Marlies’ parent club Toronto Maple Leafs this year, it was expected that Owuya would push fellow Scandinavian Jussi Rynnas for the starting job in the AHL.
Instead, Scrivens regained his starting role because of the NHL lockout and left the Marlies with too many keepers.
Scrivens, however, hasn’t shown the same standard of play as last season and is currently 5-6-0 with a 2.55 goals-against average and .900 save percentage.
Rynnas, on the other hand, has been the best of the three goaltenders this season, going 3-0-1 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .938 save percentage in four starts.
Because of the combination of Scrivens’ inconsistency and Rynnas’ success, it’s been difficult for Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins to turn to Owuya for the first quarter of the season, which is why the minimum time he’s had hasn’t worked in his favor for more playing time.
“It’s something we’ve been talking about, trying to find a way to get him in more games, but you have to get Ben up to speed and Jussi has earned his (time),” said Eakins. “It’s the battle of three goalies.”
Fortunately for Owuya, the battle of three has recently turned into a battle of two as Rynnas went down with a groin injury and is expected to be out for at least another few days.
Toronto plays three games in three days this weekend and Eakins hinted the door could be open for Owuya to start at least once.
The bench boss believes that Owuya would benefit from more playing time and with Rynnas out and Scrivens starting five of Toronto’s last six contests, it’s the perfect opportunity.
“There’s a dance that goes on in a game and when you’re playing every night that dance comes very easy,” said Eakins. “When you’re not playing every night and you’re only in every couple weeks the game’s new to you. He needs to get into a rhythm and that’s my job, to get him into the rhythm.”
Owuya doesn’t necessary agree more game time would improve his early-season struggles, considering the most amount of games he’s ever played in one season is the 44 combined games from last year, but he has been benefitting from the amount of practice time he’s had with just two goalies sharing the crease.
“I haven’t really ever played that many games and I’ve still been able to find a way and somehow battle with the time I can get,” said Owuya. “I know what to do and I know what I have to do to stop the puck. If this would have been six years ago I would have said, ‘oh man I gotta change this or change that’, but now I keep working at what I know.”
Rynnas will eventually be healthy again and Eakins will be forced to find a way to keep all three goalies content with playing time. The simplest solution may be to find a spot in the ECHL for Owuya, which has been discussed, however it won’t happen any time soon.
“We’ve discussed a whole bunch of different scenarios,” said Eakins about the goalie situation. “If we get all three goalies again it’s definitely something we’re going to have to revisit. We’re looking at all avenues but for now we’re going to stay status quo.”
If Eakins has no intentions of sending a goalie down, then Owuya will have to make better use of his limited time in goal if he wants to do more than practice with Toronto. Despite how Scrivens has started the season, he’s the club’s number-one and will get his games. And Rynnas was playing his best hockey before going down to injury and Eakins has already said that the Finland native will regain the playing time he was earning before getting hurt.
The Marlies kick off their weekend on Friday night in Rochester against the Americans.