Hull Stingrays' Greg Blais wants to be a starting goalie
HULL Stingrays' Greg Blais believes he has got what it takes to be a starting keeper in the Elite League.
Blais has spent most of this season in the shadows of Stingrays' number one Ben Bowns.
However, when Bowns has been on international duty with Great Britain, the 32-year-old has stepped in and impressed between the pipes.
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Blais' latest appearances came in Stingrays' 5-1 win and 8-7 overtime loss against Dundee last weekend.
The goalie duo's stats are almost identical, with Blais currently running at a 90 per cent save rate, and Bowns at 89.8.
"Saturday's win boosted the guys' confidence and I wanted them to get confidence in me because I feel I could be a number one goalie in this league," said Blais.
"I am trying to prove myself and push Ben as much as I can. In hockey nothing is a given, my job is to push Ben and the more I push the better the team will be."
The weekend's games were Blais' first starts since November, when Bowns was in Japan with GB.
Once Bowns returned he resumed his number one role, leaving Blais to sit out most games as he counts towards Stingrays' 11-import quota because he's Canadian-born, albeit a British passport holder.
However, Canadian Cale Tanaka's potentially season-ending broken wrist, now means Blais is free to play in every game, if necessary.
"It's tough to just step in after a spell out," said Blais.
"I want to play all the time, but I know Ben is at Stingrays on a two-year contract.
"He's the starting goalie and I came here knowing what I have to do. I'm here to help Ben as much as possible and step in if necessary, and I think I'm doing an alright job."
Blais was back on the bench last night as Bowns returned from Great Britain's failed bid to reach the 2014 Winter Olympics in Latvia.
Unfortunately, it was not enough to prevent the Rapid Solicitors Stingrays going down 4-1 in Braehead.
The defeat leaves Stingrays bottom of the table, six points adrift of eighth-place Dundee, with 12 games remaining, starting with Cardiff at Hull Arena on Saturday.
Matt Hanson (1.59) and Rob Farmer (16.59) put Clan 2-0 ahead at the first break.
Ash Goldie added a 37th-minute powerplay effort for the second period's only goal.
Jeff Smith breathed life into Stingrays' cause with a powerplay goal of his own on 46.05.
Sadly, that was as good as it got, Jordan Krestanovich grabbing a last-minute empty net goal with Bowns pulled for the extra out-ice skater.
The result left coach Sylvain Cloutier on his 39th birthday with nothing to celebrate.
He said: "I was really hoping we could get something in Braehead having run them very close before. It's pretty disappointing not to have got at least a point, but now we have to re-group and get ready to face Cardiff."