When the Buffalo Sabres selected Bradley Eidsness in the fifth round (#139 overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft nobody was sure about the pick. Eidsness was an unknown goalie that was playing in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. He had great numbers in the AJHL but nobody was sure how that would translate at the next level.
It didn't take Eidsness long to show people the Sabres didn't make a mistake. As a freshman he had 24 wins which second in school history behind only Ed Belfour who had 29 wins in 1986-1987. His 24 wins was also the most in the WCHA and his 2.39 goals against average tied him for the best in the conference with Alex Stalock from Minnesota-Duluth.
The Sabres seem to favor goalies who take the NCAA route after the success of Ryan Miller. They have stocked their system with NCAA goalies and Eidsness appears to among the best of the group.
I talked to your teammate Corey Fienhage and he liked the way the team is playing lately. What has been the reason for the teams turnaround in recent weeks?
We started out really hot but then our captain went down. He was a guy who if he had been healthy, would have ben a top three Hobey Baker guy and if you loo at the teams numbers with him and without him there is a big difference. He was really a key to the team and without him we are a very young team and we had some problems growing into our roles. As of late we have really played better, it hasn't always shown in our wins and losses but we have definitely played better.
It is just a matter of guys growing into their roles and things look really positive looking into the future. We have most of this group of guys back minus a few guys but right now we are focused on this year and trying to make a good run at it in the last half of the year.
Wins have been tough to come by and a large part of that is your competition. In te WCHA you play against a top-10 team almost every weekend. How difficult is it as a goalie to face such difficult competition every game without much of a breather?
Yeah, the WCHA is really strong and especially this year with dangerous players in every lineup. As goalie I just try to prepare hard every week and get ready to face some dangerous players. One of the luxuries you have at this level is you get a lot more video than you would in junior. It allows you to get an idea of who are the key players and being around for a year or two has helped a lot too. You get an idea of how certain players shoot and how teams run their power plays as well.
It is difficult every week and you have to prepare for it that way. It was one of the unique dynamics of college hockey out west where we play the same team on Friday and Saturday night, it's always a war and it's a lot of fun.
As a Western Canadian there are many people that wonder how you would end up at North Dakota. You had an opportunity to play junior hockey for Red Deer in the WHL but chose to come to North Dakota and play NCAA hockey. How did you decide that NCAA would be the best option for you?
When I was 17 years old, my parents and I decided that the best option was going to school and getting an education. When I made the decision that I wasn't going to play junior in Canada I was fortunate enough to get a look from different schools around the country and in my visit to North Dakota I felt that the coaching staff and the people reminded me a lot of home in Western Canada.
We are in the midwest and at the same time hockey means a lot. We have a town of 60,000 people and we fill a 12,000 seat arena every night. Hockey is the focal point of the town and definitely unique. I like to compare it by saying, it is the most Canadian-like city in United States.
Some kids have trouble adjusting when they first attend college but you had a very successful freshman season. You were named "Male Athlete Rookie of the Year" (Entire School) as well as "Team Rookie of the Year". Why were you able to be so successful in your freshman season?
I think the biggest reason was just the opportunity to play. Coach Hakstol had a lot of trust in me early on in my career and I was able to parlay that into some success. We had a good veteran team last year and there were plenty of guys to learn from. Many of those guys are playing pro hockey now. We had guys like Ryan Duncan, a former Hobey Baker winner, and he was easy to learn from. Making the jump from junior to the WCHA was a big jump but learning from the veterans and the coaches confidence allowed me to just go out and play.
Unfortunately we only get to see box scores and never have an opportunity to see you play. I'd like Sabres fans to know more about your game. How would you describe your style as goalie? Are there any current or past goalies you pattern your game after?
That's a tough question because every guy is different. I try to watch a lot of goalies and take a little bit from everyone. I think I'm more of an athletic guy, I try to come out and challenge shooters and make myself big, but still be athletic and make saves that other guys can't make.
I just try to take something from every goalie and make myself better everyday. I know that I am a different goalie than I was a couple of years ago when I stepped on campus and I'm a different goalie than I was when I stepped on campus this fall.
The Sabres aren't deep in numbers at the goalie position but they have a couple of great goalies in the system. Ryan Miller is signed to a multi-year deal in Buffalo and Jhonas Enroth is playing great in Portland. Do you ever look ahead and try to figure out where you fit in the system?
I try not to, I think I just need to worry about what I am doing everyday to get better. I know that I am probably a couple of years out from when I might get an opportunity to get a deal and I don't know 100% when that will be.
I talk to Phil Lamoureux quite a bit and probably once or twice a month he is out in Portland and he is good things to say about the organization and really good things to say about Jhonas Enroth but I try not to look ahead too much. I try to just focus on my job here, get better and help North Dakota win games. I've really enjoyed myself here at North Dakota and I look forward to the rest of this season and the rest of my career here.
In talking to other prospects I know the Sabres stay in contact with you throughout the season. Is there contact mostly telling you what to improve on or do they look for feedback from you as well?
I think it's a little bit of both. The biggest thing they focus on with goalies is to explain that it is a long process and it's one the positions where you need a lot of maturity. They basically look to make sure your technique is getting better, your getting quicker and stronger throughout the season. They basically rely on me to tell them how I am playing.
With a goalie it is difficult to just look at the box scores and tell how they are playing, The biggest thing they say to me is "keep developing, keep working on your game and get better". We have a lot of resources here at North Dakota that allow me to get better by spending extra time on the ice and working on my game everyday.
As an NCAA player you probably have a more difficult schedule than any pro athlete does. Between hockey and classes there is probably very little free time to have fun. How do you occupy the little free time that you have?
We are pretty busy, especially in the WCHA where we are on the road a lot so there is not a lot of free time. I just try to hang out with the guys on the team and we watch a lot of NHL games and play video games. Another thing I like do, especially on the road, is read. I like to read a lot of books. I find it is a nice way to relax and get your mind of school and everything else that is going on with hockey.
Thanks for taking the time to do this. I know you are extremely busy and I appreciate you taking the time.
No worries. Thank you very much.