He might be diminutive in stature as far as big goalies are concerned but he has the heart of a lion and the quickness of a tiger.
No wonder Brooks Bandits goalie Michael Fredrick compares his playing style to Pittsburgh netminder Marc-Andre Fleury. He says there are a lot of similarities.
“It's not always pretty, but if you make a save and get out of position you have to be able to scramble back and make the next save – and depend on your teammates too,” laughs the affable Lethbridge product who has backstopped his Bandits to a numbing 31-1 record so far in the AJHL season.
His numbers are predictably stellar: He's 26-1 in 27 starts this season, and boast a 1.96 goals against average and a .907 save percentage.
Last season, Frederick spent the majority of his time on the bench backing up Jan Obernesser en route to the franchise's first AJHL title. He went 11-1 in 12 games.
Though they weren't able to win a Doyle Cup and advance to the RBC, the 18-year-old Fredrick said he learned a lot from the experience as did his teammates.
“I think everyone learned that we have to be more mentally tough and prepared to play every single night. And that we need every guy in the lineup going 100%,” said Fredrick.
“Anything less and you can be beaten.”
Exhibit A: The Bandits attempted to tie the league record for most wins from the start of a season recently in Grande Prairie, and came up on the wrong end of a 4-1 scoreline.
“I think it was a good wake-up call… it's not that we played that badly, we just ran into a red-hot goalie and that can happen… you have to be prepared to give everything every night or you can lose.”
Fredrick has his long-term sights set on an NHL dream, but he realizes his size has not done him many favours in the scouting world. In fact, despite the numbers and success, he has yet to see any real interest from NCAA scouts, which would help him to one of his other goals, to get a college education via the puck.
“I know my size is an issue for some, and I think some people think we're (Brooks) such a great team, the goalie doesn't have to be that strong, but I just keep working hard and hope that I'll get noticed,” he said.
Noticed indeed, says Bandits bench boss and GM Ryan Papaioannou.
“There were many nights along the way (during the streak) when he made game savers for us, or there is no streak. I think he knows that his size isn't doing him any favours, so he has to be that much better to prove himself, even though some programs aren't interested in a goalie who isn't over six feet, 180 pounds.”
So playing with a bit of a chip on his shoulder?
“I think maybe a little,” says Papaioannou, “but Michael is a team guy first and he understands that it takes everyone in the room to be successful. “At the same time, we challenged him coming into the season to carry the mail in goal, so I think he made extra efforts in the off-season in the physical department to be ready for the load and he has done that.”
The other card in Fredrick's deck that Papaioannou likes is that of responsibility.
He knows where the buck, or puck, has to stop.
“He knows if we breakdown and give up a 5-0 break, that becomes his problem and he accepts that responsibility.”
While Fredrick battles on hoping for a repeat AJHL title, and a chance at a national championship, he also hopes that trail will get him a few more scouting looksees along the way. But that trail to this point couldn't have happened without support right from minor hockey ranks in Lethbridge to the stage he is now upon.
“My Dad and my Mom have been great all through the years, taking me to games, giving me support…that's been really important.”
For now, Fredrick's eye on the prize is short-sighted.
“We have to play to win each night, be prepared to battle, and we'll win games, if we don't, and I don't play well, we can lose… I just hope I can use the opportunity to show how well I can play.”