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Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Bolts’ goalie scramble ripples through minors

MONTREAL — What a wild and wacky weekend it was for the Lightning goaltenders, and Tampa Bay assistant general manager Julien BriseBois.

Ben Bishop left Thursday’s game in Ottawa with an injury, but Anders Lindback ended up the injured netminder after suffering an ankle sprain and will be out for at least a month. Riku Helenius, the one-time first round pick, informed the Florida Everblades of the East Coast Hockey League on Wednesday that he was leaving the team to return home to Finland, was thereby resulting in a suspension from the Lightning for breach of contract.

Meanwhile, BriseBois, also the general manager for Tampa Bay’s American Hockey League affiliate in Syracuse, spent several hours on the phone in Montreal trying to manage the organization’s goaltending situation in order to have two healthy netminders to play for Syracuse on Saturday afternoon while Tampa Bay had the top four goaltenders in the organization inside Bell Centre.

All the uncertainty had BriseBois scrambling to find replacements.

Following Friday’s Syracuse game in Utica, N.Y., both Cedrick Desjardins and Kristers Gudlevskis hopped into a car to make the four-hour drive to Montreal to join the Lightning around 3 a.m. as Bishop’s status was up in the air, with a determination of his status not known until after warmups when Bishop declared he was fine and could play.

Meanwhile, BriseBois had been working to find one replacement in Syracuse as early as Thursday after Bishop left the game, and had a player lined up on loan from an East Coast Hockey League team only to be informed that an injury situation occurred for that team as the plan fell through.

Then BriseBois was able to secure Allan York on loan from South Carolina of the ECHL on Friday morning, and eventually sign him to a tryout contract. As BriseBois arrived to the Bell Centre for Lightning practice Friday afternoon, he learned of the injury to Lindback and immediately started working the phone to find a second goaltender to get to Syracuse for a 3 p.m. home game on Saturday.

That was to be Grant Rollheiser, who was playing for the Brampton Beast in the Central Hockey League, a step below the ECHL, after he was signed to a tryout agreement. Rollheiser made a five-hour drive to Chicago, slept a few hours in his car at the airport before getting on a plane bound for Rochester, N.Y., where he would then drive to Syracuse. But after some mechanical problems in flight, the plane was forced to land in Cleveland leaving Rollheiser unable to get to Syracuse in time for the game.

So BriseBois was back on the phone Saturday morning with those back in Syracuse asking, “Who is the best men’s league goalie” in town? That led to the Crunch signing 46-year-old John Parks to an amateur tryout. Parks, who sometimes fills in during Crunch practices, offered to pay BriseBois in order to dress for Syracuse, “But I told him how about we pay you $300 and you can keep the jersey.” Parks served as the backup to York on Saturday against Norfolk.

The situation figures to finally settle down – provided nothing else happens –after Bishop was able to make it through Saturday’s game against Montreal.

Gudlevskis is expected to be returned to Syracuse while York will remain with Syracuse at least through the Olympic break. Gudlevskis will represent Latvia during the Olympic games while Desjardins is will return to Syracuse after next Saturday’s Lightning game.

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