When asking the question, where do championship teams begin their foundation? Most would likely answer their goaltenders are the solid backbone that have the capability to decide the fate of a game. The Atlantic Attack boasts a team of all rookies, but what makes their rookie goaltending tandem in the NRL unique is their biological age. Perhaps the youngest combination of back-stoppers to ever play for one team in the NRL is 17 year old Karine Doiron and 18 year old, Jasmine LeBlanc.
The Atlantic Attack have no hesitation thus far in attributing a majority of their success to the youthful pair. Currently, the Attack have a 7-3-0 record, and luckily for the team, they can safely throw out the stereotype that a goaltender reaches the peak of their potential in their mid 20’s because these goalies do not act their age. As a duo, both LeBlanc and Doiron have made a mark in their NRL debut by having a save percentage that places each of them within the top ten in the NRL.
Jasmine LeBlanc, 18, played Canada Winter Games last season and has quickly shown she can compete at this level. In six games, she has faced 220 shots and saved 198. Currently, she sits in first place amongst rookie goalies with a .900 save percentage. Leblanc calls herself a butterfly-style keeper and is a real student of the game as she carefully watches her idol, the Edmonton Wam goaltender, Keely Brown, for tips and techniques. In an interview, she modestly stated that it’s her teammates and coaches that help her thrive between the pipes and assisted with her adjustment in entering the best ringette league in the country.
Karine Doiron, 17, played for the under 19 New Brunswick Provincial Team, and has secured four wins in five starts. As for the Attack, it was a no-brainer to receive permission for Doiron to play in this league as her save percentage is .891 and is one of the best in the league. She calls her style ‘unorthodox’ as she heavily relies on her reflexes and models her game closely after Stanley Cup Champion goalie, Tim Thomas. However, Doiron is quick to state that every other goaltender in the NRL is a role model for her and that she closely studies their styles.
Perhaps, the strongest point of both these talented goaltenders is their mental strength. Each are quick to explain that the pressure of the games are lessened this season, because it is the first year the team has ever competed, and their aim is simply, to do their best. LeBlanc explains, ‘I love being a goaltender, because it is the pressure that I thrive on. The action is constant and I love the excitement of making a big save’ and Doiron states, ‘I love the fast play and I try very hard to do my part in every game to make sure the team is in a position to win’.
Despite only being in the NRL for a short amount of time, both stress the importance of being consistently ready to compete and maintain that high level of competitiveness. Jasmine Leblanc expressed that ‘every game in the NRL counts. The entire season is longer than the playing seasons I have experienced in the past and every single game matters here. You can’t be unprepared to play a game in the NRL.’ Doiron is quick to add that ‘this league has the best players in Canada, and if you want to succeed in this league, you have to be prepared and to play your best.
For the Attack, it is hard not to daydream about the future of this team and how both of these goaltenders will continue to mature and develop their talents in the net. If the saying is true that champion teams are built around a solid core of goaltending, the Attack certainly have secured their foundation.
*article is based on statistics as of November 25, 2011