SOUTHAVEN, Miss. - Brad Barone dons a different look than the rest of his teammates on game nights. He fastens the black and gold leg pads around his legs, places the black mask on his head, and tucks his hands into the goalie mitts along with his broad Sherwood stick. Number 30 skates to net ready to play against the Evansville Thunderbolts.
Barone, 26, has appeared in 36 games for the RiverKings this season. The netminder holds a 91.5 save percentage with 968 saves on the season. With the playoffs fast approaching, the Medfield, Mass. native is settling in behind the net.
Yet for Barone’s hockey career, he has not always been the team’s goaltender.
“For my first year of hockey, I played forward full-time,” Barone recounts. “My second year I played on two teams; one as the full-time goalie and the other one I would switch back and forth.” His transition to the net was not always of his decision. Barone and the position found each other at a young age by breaking rules. Since then, the relationship lasted for the better. “We won a playoff game on the A team when I was a goalie. On the B-team, I would sub in. The league called and told them I was playing goalie full time. Basically, we won a playoff game and we had to forfeit the game because of it,” Barone lamented. “So, I told myself I just had to commit myself to it full-time.”
By committing to a full-time gig, Barone learned some key characteristics of playing the position over time. What does the casual fan don’t see in a goalie’s game?
“I think calmness is a big one,” Barone said. “A fan sees a lot of going and a lot of chaos in front of the net, but a big trait for a goaltender is sustaining alertness and calmness. You have you be a super adrenaline junkie.” With chaos surrounding him in front of the goal, Barone would come to learn how to master his own focus. It’s a trait all goalies should achieve. With a current 2.69 goals against average behind the net, Barone mediates his game continually.
“I work on it a lot. I try to make sure I come into the game with focus of doing my job. There’s a lot of mental exercises that I do on my own along with yoga. I look up ways online. Finding music that has 60 beats per minute and allows you to mediate. Stuff like that.”
Barone’s mental focus prepared him for his professional journey. After several years of traveling from New Hampshire to Florida and Louisiana after a collegiate career at Boston College, Barone stabilized himself with the RiverKings.
“It’s been great. I feel like you get into a grove when you start to play consistently,” Barone remarked. “There was stretch that I was playing a lot, pretty much every night. That helped me to get into a grove. Since then, it’s been really good."
While in Southaven, Miss., the netminder has found success. He achieved SPHL player of the week for January 16-22 by demonstrating two shut-outs behind the net against the Evansville Thunderbolts mid-season. What does he contribute that to?
“Focusing on my job. Keeping us in the game as much as I can. I want to give us a chance to win every night, whether it’s handling the puck, trying to start the breakout, or keeping it close,” Barone said. On bad nights, Barone affiliates teamwork as a crutch for when things are going south. “There are some nights when I’m not feeling my best and the team will pick me up. It’s a great dynamic,” Barone implied. “Especially when you’re in a locker room where everyone likes each other and pulls for each other. You get to know guy pretty well of the course of the season.”
With the playoffs just a week away, Barone testifies towards a strong RiverKings defensive pride. As a unit, there is always room for improve moving forward with the season on the line.
“In a goalie’s perspective, you build individual relationships with guys. You develop as a core too. You take pride every night you step on the ice,” Barone explained. “We basically feed off each other. You realize there is a certain obligation be solid in the d-zone. I think as a core we need to take pride in our game and minimize the chances against.”
Sitting in 5th place in SPHL standings, the RiverKings goalie likes where the team is headed. With communication and strong defensive zone, their goals lay in near sight.
“I think we have really good chance of getting it done. We’ve been clicking as a team recently. We just need to stay in the present,” Barone said. “I like to use a baseball analogy. Take it pitch by pitch, inning by inning. If we do that over the course of time, we have the tools and talent to make a long run.”
Goalie Brad Barone placed a 19-14-2 record and 991 saves in his first season with the RiverKings. - © Kori LaVire
The RiverKings commence the 2017 President's Cup Playoffs tomorrow night against the Huntsville Havoc for a 7:30 p.m. face-off. Fans with questions about tickets can call 662-342-1755 or visit riverkings.com for more information.
About the Mississippi RiverKings
The RiverKings are supported by our community partners, season ticket holders, fans, and grants from Maddox Foundation, an independent private foundation based in Hernando, Miss. To find out more about the RiverKings, call 662-342-1755 or visit RiverKings.com