BIERK CONTINUES STRONG PLAY IN TIE
By Sergey Kocharov
While growing up in Peterborough, Ontario, Phoenix Coyotes netminder Zac Bierk idolized Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy._ So, it is only fitting that as the Colorado Avalanche celebrate “Patrick Roy Night” in Colorado, the 27-year-old Bierk continued his excellence between the pipes for the Coyotes._
Bierk – who got the start in place of No. 1 goaltender Sean Burke – turned aside 26 of 28 shots as the Coyotes settled for their third consecutive tie, a 2-2 draw with the Chicago Blackhawks at America West Arena on Tuesday_ night.
“I thought we outplayed them and we deserved to win the game,” Bierk said after the Coyotes outshot Chicago 37-28 in the contest._ “Leading up to the San Jose game, we started to play a little more defensively._ We thought we needed a commitment to the defensive end and that was evident in the Vancouver game._ When you limit your opponents odd man rushes, breakaways…it makes my job that much easier.”
But nothing came easy tonight.
Bierk made most of his stops in the opening period as he turned away 12 of 13 shots._ His two best saves of the game came late in the first and second periods when he robbed Ryan VandenBussche and Mark Bell, respectively, at point black range._
“Zac was excellent tonight,” said David Tanabe, who logged 27:54 of ice time._ “He’s been strong for us and that’s what we need._ Sean (Burke) cannot carry the entire load; he cannot play all 82 games._ We need a guy who can come in and play, and Zac has been able to do that for us.
“It’s crucial to have confidence in your goaltending and we certainly have confidence in all of our goaltenders._ I know personally that if I make a mistake, they’ll both be there to make the save.”
Last season – his fifth in the National Hockey League – Bierk returned to the NHL with a vengeance after having played in only one game since the 1999-00 campaign._ He played in 16 games with the Coyotes, posting a 4-9-1 record with a 2.17 goals against average, .932 save percentage and one shutout._ Bierk would have been atop the NHL in save percentage but did not have enough games to qualify for the NHL leaderboard (24 games played minimum).
Bierk – who led all Coyotes goalies in save percentage last season (.932) – made his season debut with a 41-save effort in San Jose on Oct. 25._ The Coyotes settled for a 4-4 tie in that game, but Bierk’s performance in net granted head coach
Bob Francis more than enough confidence to start him in tonight’s contest.
“He earned the opportunity to start tonight,” said Francis of Bierk._ “He looked very good in practice and I thought he played extremely well in San Jose._ You’ve got to take into consideration the amount of games we have played and the travel that is involved._ We feel very confident in whoever we put in there._ But he earned the start tonight.”