Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
With an EBUG on the bench, Dan Vladar steals the show in Calgary Flames’ overtime win over Vegas
By Ryan Pike2 months ago
The evening plans for two goaltenders changed in a hurry early Monday night, as Jacob Markstrom coming down with an illness led to emergency backup goalie (EBUG) Dustin Nickel dressing as the Calgary Flames’ backup and usual Flames backup Dan Vladar starting in Markstrom’s place.
Despite a couple breathless moments following player collisions with Vladar – including Vegas Golden Knights forward William Carrier crashing into him early in the first period – the Flames’ netminder stole the show with his finest game of the season in a 2-1 overtime win over the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Markstrom participated in morning skate as usual on Monday morning, then headed home. He returned to the building hours before the scheduled game, was evaluated and deemed not good to dress for the game, and was sent home.
Vladar was texted by Flames goaltending coach Jason LaBarbera around 4:45 p.m. to inform him that he may need to start, and he was informed that he was definitely starting when he arrived at the arena around 5:30. As the scheduled backup, Vladar had stayed on for extra work after morning skate.
“He found out just before my meeting at 5:30, so he got his extra work this morning, which isn’t easy for goaltenders, and to find out late he doesn’t even really have a chance to prepare,” said Flames head coach Ryan Huska. “So he did an amazing job, by far his best game of the year for us. And there was some key moments in the game where it could have gone the other direction off of some turnovers and he made some big saves for us, so he was most definitely first star in my books tonight.”
Vladar made 27 saves for the victory. Vladar deadpanned that his experiences under the Flames’ previous head coach made sure he kept ready for game action.
“You play two years for Darryl, you just gotta be ready for every single game,” said Vladar, referring to former bench boss Darryl Sutter.
Under league rules put into place after the COVID stoppage in 2020, teams have until 5 p.m. local time on game days to make last minute roster moves – the change was made to allow for recalls if players fell ill, as Markstrom did on Monday night.
But the Flames reportedly narrowly missed that cut-off, so instead of Vladar being backed up by AHL most valuable player Dustin Wolf, he was backed up by the building’s primary EBUG, Nickel, who found out just after Vladar did about the change in plans and was hastily signed to an amateur try-out contract about 90 minutes before the game. (Under the NHL’s rules governing amateur try-out deals, Nickel received no compensation for his appearance, but he did get the best seat in the house.)
“Actually woke up from a nap to a text from LaBarbera at about 5:30, kinda letting me know that this is possibly going to come in here and dress and just to kind of be ready,” said Nickel. “I live pretty close by so I just jumped into my truck and came here and tried to do business as usual and get a warm-up in and try to stay calm, I guess.”
A former junior and university goaltender, Nickel has been the Flames’ occasional practice goaltender in recent seasons. He apparently tore his groin at the end of a strenuous practice late last season. When he’s not helping out the Flames, Nickel runs his own construction business and works as a goaltending coach.
Just 2:35 into the first period, Carrier crashed right into Vladar and was given a goaltender interference penalty. Vladar was down for a few moments and was checked on by Flames athletic therapist Kent Kobelka, but he got up and stayed in the game.
“That it should have been more than two minute minor, I felt,” joked Huska about what was going through his mind in that moment. “Once Vladdy moved around, I knew he was fine.”
“Hanny told me first thing right away, he was like ‘You gotta play, we’ve got an EBUG on the bench,'” joked Vladar, later quipping that he “felt like a football player out there a little bit,” due to the contact he faced during the game.
Vladar improved to 4-2-1 in seven starts this season with the victory. The Flames are back in action on Thursday night, hosting the Dallas Stars with an opportunity to reach the .500 mark with a victory.
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