Life in the minor leagues is rarely linear. Instead, it’s usually filled with frequent twists and turns. So, very little can surprise Kings’ goaltending prospect JF Berube these days.
With his hip surgery from the summer of 2011 well behind him, coupled with a strong second half to last season, the 21-year old netminder entered this year with renewed enthusiasm and was confident his development would continue to progress throughout the 2012-13 campaign.
His 1.63 goal against average and .926 save percentage the in the month of January had him feeling like everything was coming together. Following his next start with the Ontario Reign, the Kings re-asigned him to Manchester. Although it would be his second call up of the season, he ended up only starting one game for the Monarchs over the next seven weeks.
“It was frustrating when I first got there, not hearing if I would play or not,” explained Berube. “I saw where we were having a couple three-in-threes [three games in three days]. So, I was expecting to maybe get a game. I was just expecting to play more.”
If communication is the key to life, it certainly helped in this situation.
“After that, I spoke with Freddy [Meyer] and Mark [Morris] over there, and they told me what the plan was. The Kings wanted Martin Jones to have a lot of games so they can see how he performs when he’s tired. That’s OK. It’s good that they want to see that. I was happier after that and they gave me the one game in Providence.”
Happy with playing just one game in more than a month?
“It is what it is, you know?” remarked Berube. “You take what comes, and you try to make the best out of it. For me, I just wanted to make a good impression, and I think I did great.”
Originally, the Monarchs weren’t expecting back-up goaltender Peter Mannino to be out injured as long as he was. Thus, things just developed on a week-to-week basis and probably weren’t planned out that way in advance.
“It’s a tough situation because I wanted to play, for sure,” Berube continued. ”But, they were in a race to make the playoffs too. It was a good decision I think, to leave Jones in net. But, of course, I wanted to play and I think I could have played a couple more games. Either way though, at the end of that day, it’s their decision and I respect it. I was just working hard in practices. And if you work hard and they see it, it might give you an opportunity to play.”
Despite that opportunity never materializing in Manchester, he’s back in Ontario now and it’s his crease to lose as the Reign head into the playoffs. Berube will be the starter tonight in the team’s regular season finale vs. Alaska. They’ll then host the Utah Grizzlies when the post-season begins on Tuesday.
“He’s gonna get the ball here in the playoffs,” said coach Jason Christie. “We rested him Friday night because we want him ready to go. He’s had good practices and played well (earlier this week on the road). He’ll start tonight and hopefully go off on a solid note before the playoffs.”
Christie and Berube have already helped the Reign secure their second consecutive Pacific Division Championship. Come Tuesday, they’ll be looking to help the fifth-year franchise secure their first playoff series win and move on ot the second round of the playoffs.
After being upset by Idaho in the first round last year, Ontario’s coach sounds more confident in Berube this time around.
“He’s playing well this year and I think he’s a different person now. I mean, he’s solid. You just see a big difference in him.”
Tonight will also mark the home debut of Berube’s new LA Kings Legends mask. See link below for pictures.
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