Written by George Johnson
It’s all a mind game for goalies.
In Tyler Parsons’ line of work, getting inside the heads of opposing shooters while not allowing outside circumstances to mess with yours is the age-old trick to happiness, success and a long, rich professional life.
“It is big, mentally,” confessed the soon-to-be 21-year old puck-repeller. “I was up and down a lot last year.
“I had a few injuries but those are not excuses. I fought through those. As a goaltender, you can’t let that get to you. It all comes down to stopping the puck.
“There were a lot of up and downs but I never let myself get too down. It’s part of the sport. I’m still young. I’ve still got a lot of games to play, I’m sure.
“Now I’m better and I’m feeling great. Better than ever.”
After a summer re-set following a challenging first year as a pro, Parsons was solid Sunday afternoon, producing 23 saves in a 7-3 slap down of the Edmonton Oilers’ young ‘uns at the Scotiabank Saddledome, in the first of a two-game rookies set.
Whether corkscrewing to his right to get an arm/paddle down on Oiler centre Colin Larker right off a face-off, committing grand larceny on Tyler Vessel, or flicking a pad at a dangerous Joseph Gambardella chance, the acrobatic World Junior gold-medal winner was on point.
“It feels great to get that first one out of the way, even better to get a win out of it,” said Parsons afterwards. “It’s just good for my confidence.
“I felt good. I’ve got a lot more in me. It’s still early so I’m going to keep pushing, keep competing and doing my best.
“It’s awesome to be back.”
Turning pro a year ago, Parsons split time between ECHL Kansas City (12-12, 3.86 GAA) and AHL Stockton (1.3, 4.39 GAA) while dealing with a variety of hurts.
“He went through a lot last year,” agreed Flames’ GM Brad Treliving. “Making the jump from junior to playing pro is difficult enough in itself. Then he battled stuff from Day One. He’d start, get injured, get back up and have to re-start, and did that three times. That can take a toll on anyone, particularly a young player, and especially one at his position.
“His attitude has always been outstanding but this summer went home, got his focus straight,” says Treliving. “I know I say this a lot, but we forget how young these guys are sometimes: the Monahans that come in, the Tkachuks, are the exception, not the rule.
“It takes time.”
A member of the fraternity, goaltending coach Jordan Sigalet – more than anyone – understands the very specific mental subplots of playing the position.
“It is hard for a goalie, any goalie, when you’re going up and down, back and forth, to find a rhythm, to find some confidence,” he said.
“Then to have some injuries …
“On top of that, this is a situation he’s never really found himself in. In major junior, he’s The Guy. Playing every night. No question. Now, all of a sudden, he’s trying to establish himself, his credentials, again. So there’s a lot going on.
“He really impressed me tonight. That wasn’t a 7-3 game, in my mind. It could’ve been 8-7.
“So a great first game for him. Now he has to build on it.”
The organization has made sure to remind Parsons of their continuing belief in his upside.
“I told him this summer: When you look back years from now, these are great learning experiences,” Treliving said. “I mean, it may sound cliché but it’s still true.
“You take more away from adversity than you do when everything’s going your way. The type of year Tyler went through is never, never easy but they do build character.
“The white noise out there, we’ve told him, is the last thing you pay attention to. Pay attention to what we’re talking to you about, what you’re telling yourself.
“I can’t speak enough about the character of Tyler Parsons. We think he’s going to be a real, real good goaltender.
“Our belief in this kid hasn’t wavered one bit.”