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Nothing But Net: Today’s NBA players negotiating for those that came before them

Nothing But Net: Today’s NBA players negotiating for those that came before them
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The twohad been inseparable since meeting at a hockey camp in Denver this past off-season and wished to be teammates in Peoria so King brokered the "unique signing."

Trudel had tabbed Szabados, an Edmonton native, for a backup role behind rookie Storm Phaneuf after she posted a 20-20-6 record the past two seasons with the SPHL s Columbus Cottonmouths, including a .910 save percentage last season.

The first female to appear in the SPHL when she debuted with Columbus in the spring of 2014, Szabados relieved Phaneuf early in the second period of the Rivermen s season-opening 6-1 loss on Oct. 21 and allowed two goals on 15 shots to the visiting Huntsville (Ala.) Havoc.

The next night, Trudel pulled Szabados from her first start after a pair of Huntsville goals in the first four minutes five seconds of the second period in an eventual 5-1 defeat.

By Monday of this week, Trudel had seen enough on and off the ice and sentSzabados and Phaneuf of Gatineau, Que., packing while the team placedNielsen, 28, on indefinite suspension and retain his SPHL rights. Trudel tried to talk Nielsen into staying without Szabados but he chose to join the latter in leavingthe club.

It feels like a lot of weight has been lifted off everybody s shoulders. It s back to being a team.

- Peoria coach Jean-Guy Trudel on the departures of goalie Shannon Szabados and good friend Carl Nielsen

Trudel said the Szabados-Nielsen deal is the "most different situation" he s been involved with in all his years coaching and 13 seasons playing mostly at the minor pro level.

"I m paid to make sure my ownership is happy, that we win a lot of games, so I gotta do what I gotta do to make sure my team is in a good state of mind to win hockey games," said Trudel, who hails from Sudbury, Ont.

"The last two days of practice have been phenomenal. It feels like a lot of weight has been lifted off everybody s shoulders. It s back to being a team."

In less than a month, Szabados went from being the first female to appear in a game in the Rivermen s 35-year history to the first to be cut, departing Illinois with a 6.10 goals-against average and .792 save percentage.

A better calibre of play in the SPHL and Szabados small stature seemed to catch up to the five-foot-nine netminder, whose butterfly style is more exposed in the men s game.

"Down low, she s very strong, very fast, but hard shots up high were kind of tough for her," said Trudel. "You could see in practice she was struggling and the top of the net was open a lot. At this level, guys know how to pick corners."

Szabados is still in the United States with Nielsen hoping to soon land a job with one of the SPHL s 10 teams. While she said "a few" have expressed an interest to King, Szabados said a deal is not imminent.

"Not a lot of teams are going to cut goalies after one weekend, so I would assume I d have to wait a week or two before there s an injury or someone is consistently not playing good," said Szabados, whose preference is to play men s hockey.

"I m pretty comfortable in the [SPHL]. I know players on pretty much every team and I ve heard a lot of good things about almost every team in the league.

"I just want to play somewhere and have fun," continued Szabados. "I m 30 so who knows how long I ll be playing for."

Contrary to some belief, Szabados will not play for Canada at the Four Nations Cup from Nov. 1-5 in Vierumki, Finland. Canada s two-year title reign ended last year with a 3-2 loss to the United States in Sweden.

"Shannon is focused on future opportunities in the men s game," Melody Davidson, Hockey Canada s general manager of national women s teams program, said in a statement. "The lines of communication remain open, and if Shannon would like to be considered for any other events throughout the 2016-17 season, we will have those discussions at that time."

Trudel said he harbours no ill feelings toward Szabados and Nielsen, noting he had a good coach-player relationship with the goalie.

"Shannon s a great person, she loves the game of hockey and she s a good leader on the ice," he said.

"Maybe if she had come [to Peoria] by herself, gave it her all and focused on the team, maybe [the outcome] would have been different."

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