Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Life of a Third-string Goalie: Brenner Jacobs role with the Six Nations Chiefs

If you've been following the Mann Cup, you're aware that Colin Doyle was thrust into the role of third goalie for the Six Nations Chiefs as they won Game 5 11-7 to take a 3-2 lead in the championship series. But while Doyle's turn between the pipes is historic and certainly memorable, the team does actually have a third goalie. It's just typical of the way things go for the position that everyone knows about Doyle's goaltending stint but very few people know about Brenner Jacobs' role with the team.

Jacobs is the actual third goalie on the team, playing the overlooked and underappreciated but important role for the Chiefs. Jacobs makes no bones about what he's with the team to do. “I take it as my role to be the first guy out there and the last guy off the floor, just so everybody feels comfortable shooting and having a goalie in there” he says of what he does at practices and pre-game warmups.

While regular goalies Brandon Miller and Evan Kirk play the games, Jacobs is there to give players someone to shoot at while Miller and Kirk are doing what they need to do to prepare physically and mentally. So Jacobs gets out right at the start of practice or pre-game and lets anyone who wants to shoot for as long as they like and does the same thing at the end of practice.

It not glamorous by any stretch of the imagination, but Jacobs says the Chiefs have made him feel like a part of the team from the day he showed up. “The guys are great, they've pulled me in and made me feel like a big part of the team. B [Miller] and Kirky have been great, they've taken me under their wings. They've all shown that they care.”

So it was clearly an accident when the team locked Jacobs in the change room and headed back to the hotel after shootaround the other morning. It really was, although it was hard to keep that at the front of his mind as Jacobs climbed around on the benches trying to find a spot where he could get cell reception so he could call General Manager Dewey Jacobs to have someone come and let him out.

How did it happen? “I swear the shower went off at the exact same moment that they came in and listened and it sounded like nobody was in there and they locked the door. I had to walk around the change room, step on the benches, climb up as high as I could to get a phone signal.” He wound up spending about half an hour locked in there before he was released.

Jacobs does get something in return for all the effort he puts in to helping the team. As he says, there are a lot of pro players on the team and taking shots from them all year is only making him better. That's what he's strived to do over his young career. Until now, that has meant travelling where he had to go to get a chance to play as many games as possible. That took him to five teams in five years, mostly in Junior B. He started out with Welland, moved to London, spent some time with Toronto Junior A then returned to Junior B with the Six Nations Rebels, winning a Founders Cup. Then he spent a final junior year with Wallaceburg.

He wound up with his role this year because he thought that, while he wouldn't play much, facing shots from all the great players on the team would be a great next step in his development. He told Head Coach Richie Kilgour that he'd do whatever he could to help out, and it's been worth the effort, Jacobs says. “It's just been a great experience, really. I've just been getting better and I know I'm getting better. The guys have been really helpful, like B and Kirky have been helping me along, showing me what I can do to improve, telling me to keep improving my footwork and everything like that. Really facing shooters like this is the next step that I want to take any way and this has been a huge step in my training.”

In addition to the intangible benefits of being around and facing shots from pro players, Jacobs got a tangible benefit thanks to the consideration of Kilgour and Kirk, who was the Chiefs starter throughout the regular season. They agreed to let Jacobs have the start in the team's final game of the season. While the Chiefs had already clinched first place overall, the game wasn't meaningless. Six Nations was in line to win the Lumley Award for fewest goals allowed in Major Series Lacrosse as long as they gave up 6 or fewer goals against Oakville.

“Kirky gave me all the confidence going into that, told me it was my game if I wanted it and told me I'd been working hard all year,” Jacobs said. “I just kind of relished the moment, just went in there focused and determined to prove myself and I did alright.” He certainly did do alright, helping the Chiefs to a 10-5 win that allowed them to claim the Lumley and head into the post-season on a winning streak that wasn't broken until the opening game of the Mann Cup.

So while he'll wind up playing fewer minutes in net in the Mann Cup than Doyle, the experience of being part of the Six Nations Chiefs has been a great one for Jacobs, and he's provided the team with a valuable component throughout their run to what with one more win would be the team's first national title since 1996. Now if they'll just stop locking him in the change room, everything will be just dandy.