Steve DeBus and Judd Lambert don’t mind sharing.
As half-time starting goaltenders for their respective teams last season — DeBus with Minnesota, Lambert with Colorado College — each player flourished.
But sometimes it’s nice to be the center of attention. It’s sort of like when you’re a kid, and your brother or sister goes away for a weekend. Sure, you don’t mind when they’re around, but it’s nice to have mom and dad to yourself once in a while.
DeBus and Lambert’s fellow netminders last season, Jeff Moen of the Gophers and Ryan Bach of the Tigers, are not just away for the weekend — they’ve graduated from college and moved out of the house.
And although neither DeBus nor Lambert complained about splitting time for their respective teams last season, they also aren’t shy about how excited they are to be the only goalies getting top billing this year.
“It’s exciting. It’s helping me become a better goalie because I have to work that much harder,” DeBus said. “I look forward to playing as much as I can in as many games as I can. That’s what makes it fun for me.”
Lambert added, “Goaltending is the cornerstone of any team. I’m looking forward to it.”
Aside from an increase in expectations, each player’s new role creates larger demands on him personally. Lambert and DeBus chose different methods in order to prepare for this season.
Last year, Minnesota and Colorado College played 42 games each. DeBus started 22 games and Lambert started 19. Each goalie will likely start around 70 percent of the games this season, meaning an increase of five to 10 starts for each of them.
Lambert said he concentrated on getting into better shape physically. He did more conditioning drills and lifted more weights in an attempt to gain the endurance needed to play almost every game.
DeBus participated in the Gophers’ off-season workouts, but he said he concentrated more on his mental game plan over the summer.
“You can be in the best shape but a lot of it has to do with the mental aspect,” the junior said. “I can’t worry about playing Saturday night’s game before I play Friday’s.”
DeBus has also continued his meetings with sports psychologist Dr. Rick Aberman, who works with the Gophers hockey and baseball teams.
Although DeBus has seen Aberman twice this season, he said the number of times they meet varies. Last season’s discussions were more frequent than at most other points in DeBus’ career at Minnesota.
When DeBus arrived at Minnesota in 1993 after two years in the USHL, he had to sit out a year because of academic problems. The following year, the Gophers were already two-deep at goalie, and DeBus was redshirted.
“(Those years) are behind me now. It was an unfortunate thing, but there’s far worse things that could have happened to me,” he said. “I was unable to play hockey; it wasn’t like my whole life had fallen apart.”
His life hadn’t fallen apart, but he had trouble re-adjusting to life on the ice once his hiatus was over. That’s when he and Aberman began to build a friendship.
“Having the two-year layoff, I wasn’t sure how to prepare for games like I normally do. He helped me renew the trust I have in myself and just play,” DeBus said. “I enjoy talking to him. When most people hear you’re talking to a sports psychologist, they think you have confidence problems and that’s not it. He’s just been a good friend to talk to.”
Regardless of their methods, DeBus and Lambert are ready for this season, particularly this weekend’s season-opening matchup between Minnesota and Colorado College.
“I have to make sure I get off to a good start Friday night,” DeBus. “As a goalie, you can’t take a period off, especially in a series like this.”
Lambert added, “It’s going to be a tough start in a such a hostile environment,” Lambert said. “It’s one thing to go on the road, but it’s another to open at Mariucci. But it should be a good test for me and the team.”
Notes:Gophers coach Doug Woog said DeBus will likely start both games this weekend.
Colorado College coach Don Lucia said Lambert will start on Friday, and a decision on Saturday’s starter will be made the day of the game.
As part of a Homecoming weekend celebration Friday night, the addition of Mike Crowley to the Mariucci Arena All-American mural will be unveiled.
The festivities kick off the Gophers 75th Anniversary hockey season. In honor of former player and coach John Mariucci, Crowley will wear No. 75 Saturday night and all Gophers players will wear the jersey at a different home game during the season.