February 4, 2015
TORONTO– Over half a season has gone by and the Marlies still can’t say they have a clear-cut No. 1 goaltender.
Coach Gord Dineen started the season by rotating rookie Antoine Bibeau and sophomore Christopher Gibson and 44 games into the season little has changed as neither netminder has distanced himself from the other.
“They do their job, they stop the ones they should stop,” said Dineen. “I can count on one hand really the bad goals they’ve let in all year.
“I’m confident with whoever’s in net.”
Bibeau, who was selected 172nd overall by Toronto in 2013, has started 19 games this season and has a 2.52 goals-against average and .918 save percentage, which is second among 20-year-old goalies in the AHL.
Meanwhile, in 23 starts, the 22-year old Gibson has posted a 2.54 goals-against average and an identical save percentage.
“Me and Christopher have a good relationship and I think we push each other in net,” said Bibeau.
Bibeau and Gibson revolved right up until the end of December when a shoulder injury took the Victoriaville, Que. native out of the rotation and allowed Gibson an opportunity to start two games in two nights.
Gibson, from Finland, went out and won against the Hamilton Bulldogs and Rochester Americans, posting a shutout in the first and stopping 49-of-51 total shots.
In late January, Bibeau was given a similar test by starting back-to-back games against the Bulldogs.
He stopped 56-of-62 total shots and dropped both contests. Despite the final outcome, Dineen was pleased with the rookie’s performance.
“We’ve done the same with Christopher and Garret Sparks, basically through injury reasons, so we just wanted to see how Beebs would react to that and I think he had an outstanding game,” Dineen said after a 4-3 overtime loss in the second outing.
Garret Sparks, who the Maple Leafs drafted 190th overall in 2011, was expected to play a role this season with the Marlies. But a groin injury in training camp forced him to start the season in the ECHL with the Orlando Solar Bears and neither Marlies goalie has played their way down the depth chart.
Spark, 21, got two starts with the Marlies in late December while Bibeau was nursing the same shoulder injury and Gibson was on a brief call-up to the Maple Leafs. He stopped 56-of-58 shots before leaving the second game with another injury of his own.
The Illinois native was returned to the Solar Bears and has put together run a of consistent play. Sparks has gone 5-1-0 in his past six starts with a 1.95 goals-against average and .953 save percentage. His .931 save percentage in 18 games is now tops in the league.
Since Bibeau was given back-to-back starts two weekends ago, Dineen has gone back to rotating his goaltenders.