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Saving a spot among the best

With every puck that he stops during tonight’s WHL clash with the visiting Kamloops Blazers, Patrik Bartosak will establish a new Red Deer Rebels franchise record.

The Rebels netminder has, in fact, been building on the total since breaking the franchise mark for most saves in a single season during a 7-1 loss to the Calgary Hitmen Feb. 17. The 20-year-old turned aside 29 shots on that date and finished the game with 1,739 saves for the season, 12 more than the previous all-time tally of 1,727 set by Shane Bendera during the 1999-2000 season.

To his credit, the 2012-13 CHL goaltender of the year hasn’t been worn down or even fazed by the heavy workload.

“It seems to me that I made more saves last year,” said the Czech import, who stopped 1,695 shots during 3,134 minutes of action over 55 games last season. “I seriously don’t know why, but it feels like I made more saves last year.

“But, yeah, obviously it feels unreal. It’s a great honour for me and hopefully I can keep it going.”

Barring injury, Bartosak’s save total at season’s end will go down in the books as a record that won’t soon be surpassed, if ever. With nine games remaining in the regular season and Bartosak almost certain to start every one as long as the Rebels are in playoff contention, he could easily surpass 2,000 stops.

Considering Bartosak has made 1,815 saves in 3,197 minutes this season while Bendera played just over 4,000 minutes in ‘99-00, the record becomes that much more impressive.

Bartosak would be excused if he sued for lack of support, but the man who has established himself as one of the top three goaltenders in the 22-year-history of the franchise says it’s all in a day’s work, or even a full season’s work.

In fact . . .

“I like seeing lots of shots much rather than getting three or four shots a period. I like this kind of hockey and I’m enjoying it for sure,” he insisted. “It’s my job. I don’t really think about rather I’m too busy or not. My job is to be there and stop the puck whenever it comes my way. If it comes there 45 times a night then I’ll have to be there 45 times. If it comes five times, I’ll be there five times.

“Like I said, it’s just my job to be there to stop the puck and not worry about how many times I have to do it.”

With Red Deer tied with Prince Albert — prior to the Raiders playing Tuesday at Seattle — for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference and the regular season growing increasingly old, Bartosak will have to be at his best down the stretch.

The third-year keeper is ready for the challenge, but stressed that the entire team will have to pull together in order to earn a post-season spot.

“It’s not about me stopping the shots. It’s about all of us and I’m pretty sure if everyone pulls the right way we’ll be able to make the playoffs . . . make the final push and get at least the eighth playoff spot,” he said. “But we’re not just aiming there, we’re aiming a little bit higher, for sixth or seventh spot. I’m pretty sure if everyone does their job we’ll be fine.”

The Rebels face a tough schedule down the stretch. Following tonight’s outing, Red Deer will play Medicine Hat three times — including two on the road — the Kootenay Ice home-and-away, the Swift Current Broncos March 7 at the Centrium and the Edmonton Oil Kings twice, March 15 and 16 in Red Deer and Edmonton.

“We try not to focus on who are we playing against,” said Bartosak, whose agent is working with the Los Angeles Kings regarding a contract for the goaltender, selected by L.A. in last year’s NHL entry draft.

“We have to focus on how we play and how we do things. We have to be the team that leads the way on the ice and the other team has to play the way we want them to play.”

 
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