By Kinsey Janke
In hockey, the phrase “your goalie is your best penalty killer” is thrown around by commentators with reckless abandon. The position is chock full of expectations, pressure, and players who need to be physically on their game – and mentally as well.
Michael Houser, a 21-year-old born in Ohio but raised in Pittsburgh, is a goalie whose credentials speak for themselves. During the 2012-13 ECHL season with the Cincinnati Cyclones, Houser put up a 2.55 goals against average, and posted a 0.917 save percentage in 29 games.
Prior to his stint in Cincinnati, Houser spent three seasons wearing green and gold for the OHL’s London Knights. At the end of the 2011-12 season, he was awarded OHL Goaltender of the Year and was named to the OHL’s First All-Star Team. In addition, Houser won the Red Tilson Trophy, which recognizes the most outstanding player in the league, becoming the first American-born netminder to receive the honor.
This year’s Red Tilson recipient was Vincent Trocheck, a prospect in the Florida system who played alongside Houser in Friday’s NHL preseason game at the AT&T Center.
That same game earned Houser his first NHL start, backstopping the Florida Panthers as they faced off against the Dallas Stars. In only his second professional season, the Rampage staff doesn’t see him slowing down anytime soon.
“He’s going to continue to work and progress,” said Rampage head coach Peter Horachek. “Playing in an NHL game does not make you ready to make that step. He’s a good kid and he works hard. He’s been a winner before and that attitude is going to take you a long way. He’s working hard at his game.”
After the first practice of this week’s training camp, Houser took a minute to catch up.
San Antonio Rampage: How do you like San Antonio so far?
Michael Houser: It’s nice, it seems like a nice city. I haven’t seen too much of it besides the immediate downtown, but it seems like a nice city.
SAR: How do you feel about the getting the start on Friday to play in your first NHL game?
MH: It was good. It was good to get that experience. It was a great crowd, [and] they packed the house. It was fun to play in my first game here.
SAR: You were in the OHL with the London Knights, then the ECHL with the Cincinnati Cyclones, and now you’re here in San Antonio. What is the difference you see as you go up through the leagues?
MH: I think one thing you notice is it’s just faster. Guys are bigger and stronger, and the game is just a little bit faster. But as you keep going up, people make less mistakes. Sometimes it’s easier, but it’s faster as you get to each level.
SAR: Do you have any pre- or post-game superstitions or rituals?
MH: No, nothing too particular. I just kind of warm up the same way each game, and stuff like that.
SAR: Did you have a favourite player when you were growing up, or someone you model your game after?
MH: I liked watching Marc-Andre Fleury growing up, just because he’s from Pittsburgh.