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Coyotes Lose Lindback, Sign Men’s League EBUG

The Arizona Coyotes have already been playing without starter Mike Smith since the middle of December, when the Pacific Division club shut him down for core muscle surgery that’s held him out through February.

Now they’re likely to be without both their starter and their backup; Anders Lindback, inked as a free agent during the 2015 off-season to sit behind Smith, went down prior to the team’s Monday night game with what seems to be a serious injury of his own.

The Coyotes have been compensating for the lack of Smith by using rookie goaltender Louis Domingue, who started Monday against the Montreal Canadiens in the team’s 6-2 victory. Sitting on the bench, though, wasn’t a second call-up prospect: it was the team’s designated emergency backup goaltender (EBUG), Nathan Schoenfeld:

Schoenfeld is the son of former Coyotes assistant coach and current New York Rangers assistant general manager Jim Schoenfeld. The 31-year-old goaltender didn’t sit on the bench with much pro experience, though. In fact, he didn’t have any. He’s currently a men’s league goalie in Phoenix, playing for fun nearly a decade after his hockey career peaked as a club netminder for the then-ACHA Arizona State University club hockey team.

Signed to a standard one-day tryout contract used for EBUGs, Schoenfeld donned a jersey with his name and the number 40, put on his gear and the backup’s signature hat, and sat on the stool where NHL backups everywhere wait ready to fill in if needed. He wasn’t needed, but it’s still an incredible story – and when the team awarded him the player of the game belt at the end of the night, it’s easy to see why.

Had Schoenfeld, who admitted that he’d been bathing his twins when he got the call from the Coyotes that he was needed at Gila River Arena, been required to step into the game, it’s possible the Coyotes would have won anyway. They limited the Canadiens to just 19 shots on goal over three periods, winning with a decisive 6-2 victory over the struggling Atlantic Division club with Domingue playing all 60 minutes.

Beyond the feel-good element of the story, though, there is the question of what will happen if the team needs to rely on someone other than Domingue in an upcoming game – where they likely won’t be faced with as easy of a workload.

The Coyotes confirmed via head coach Dave Tippett that they’ll have to recall a goaltender from the team’s minor league system this week, although he won’t make it in time for practice on Tuesday. They’ll do more tests on Lindback tomorrow, but things look serious – it’s possible that both the team’s starter and backup will be out with injury heading down the final stretch of the year.

As for who they could call up, the Coyotes have two likely options.

Niklas Treutle came to the Coyotes system from the DEL German Tier I hockey league this summer, and he’s held up relatively well for the AHL’s Springfield Falcons as starter in Domingue’s absence. Then there’s Marek Langhamer, drafted in 2012 by the Coyotes but only in his first season of pro hockey after spending time in the WHL; he’s played well at the ECHL level as a pro rookie, but struggles behind the weak defense in Springfield as Treutle’s backup.

Whether they’ll have to trade for reinforcements in net or rely on a shuffling of their minor league system, though, the Coyotes got to see a former ASU netminder have a pretty special night on Monday – and regardless of how their season turns out, that’s still hard to top.

About The Author

Cat Silverman

Catherine is the first American in a long line of Canadians, making her the black sheep before she even decided she wasn't going to be a Leafs fan. Writer for Today's Slapshot, InGoal Magazine, and Coyotes.NHL.com, coach in the Arizona Coyotes Department of Hockey Development. Goalies are not voodoo.