The game doesn’t mean anything in the standings to the Brantford Blast, but that doesn’t mean they are going to take their foot off the pedal.
“When you go into games like this, you have to be in a mindset to prepare for the playoffs,” Blast goaltender Brett Leggat said. “In the playoffs, every team in this league steps up their game. We want to be flying high when it’s playoff time.”
There is also the factor of who the game is against.
“The game is against the Dundas Real McCoys,” Leggat said. “If there is any team we hate losing to, it’s them.”
The Blast have a lot to draw on for motivation in Friday’s contest at the Brantford and District Civic Centre at 7:30 p.m., despite already clinching first place and home ice advantage throughout the Allan Cup Hockey playoffs.
Brantford secured first place on Saturday with a 9-6 victory in Whitby against the Dunlops, improving their record to 17-2-2 on the season.
The Dunlops can no longer catch the Blast’s 36 points with only a handful of games remaining this season.
But the Dunlops are still in a race with the Real McCoys for home ice advantage in the first round of the postseason.
And the Blast don’t intend to make getting two points easy for their rival Real McCoys this Friday.
Leggat, a Hamilton native, has played in the Allan Cup Hockey League since 2005. He and Anthony Marshall have been a two-headed monster for the Blast in goal this season.
They were also alternating starts with Ben Thomas earlier in the season, but since the roster cutdown, have been on a rotation.
Both goaltenders have identical 7-1-1 records with Leggat leading the ACH with a 3.05 goals-against average and Marshall sitting in third in the league with a 3.85 GAA.
“(Player-coach Mike) Burgoyne makes the call on who is starting and we know by Thursday morning at the latest,” Leggat said. “I maybe prepare a little differently if I’m not starting, but not too much. You always want to be prepared in case you get in there.”
Leggat has always been prepared to jump at opportunities.
The 32-year-old backstopped Team Canada to a gold medal at the International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s World Inline Hockey Championships last year in Germany.
He has also had a cup of coffee in the American Hockey League during a very exciting opportunity that occurred two years ago in February.
“I was just sitting at work and I got a call on my cellphone,” Leggat said. “The Connecticut Whale needed an emergency goaltender for a game in Hamilton against the Bulldogs.”
Whale backup goalie Cameron Talbot was already injured and starter Chad Johnson – who is playing for the Phoenix Coyotes in the NHL this season – hurt himself in Toronto the night before.
The team had already called up ECHL goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris but needed someone as a backup in case he was injured during the game.
After checking into the source of the call to make sure he wasn’t dreaming, Leggat went to Copps Coliseum and got a skate in with the team before signing a tryout agreement.
He warmed the bench for the team’s Feb. 11 victory over the Bulldogs.
“It was a pretty neat experience,” he said. “I was sitting on the bench with guys like Wade Redden and Jeremy Williams.”
Leggat was disqualified from returning to the Allan Cup Hockey league for the remainder of the season because he signed in another league. He knew there was a risk of that happening, but had to take the chance.
“We weren’t 100 per cent sure I would be disqualified if I just sat on the bench, so I had to take my chances,” Leggat said. “You never know with how those stories might end. I was 30 years old and figured it would be my only chance to be on an AHL team, if even for just a game.
“I mean, Tim Thomas didn’t break into the NHL until he was 29 years old. Who knows what could have happened if I had gotten into the game and played well?”
Leggat’s AHL story is an example of why he thinks the Blast may add another goaltender before the league’s Feb. 10 signing deadline.
“The playoffs can be trying, especially if we win and get to head up north and then to the Allan Cup,” he said. “It’s nice to have that third goalie around just in case someone gets hurt.”
After Friday’s game against the Real McCoys, the Blast finish the season the following weekend with away and home games against the Orillia Tundras.
The Tundras are battling the Welland Whalers for the fourth and final playoff spot in the league.
If the Tundras get into the postseason, it sets up the potential for the Blast to play them nine times in a row – two games to end the season followed by a best-of-seven playoff series.