May 26, 2011

Adelphi's Janssen Makes Unorthodox Goalkeeping Look Good

by Jac Coyne | | Coyne Archive | Twitter

When Adelphi goalie Eric Janssen (above) takes on Mercyhurst on Sunday, his form may not be perfect, but it's likely he'll be keeping shots out of the net for the Panthers.

It didn't take long for Eric Janssen to realize he was being clowned.

He stared at the Facebook page of a Limestone men's lacrosse player, which featured a photo of an anonymous person in the Saints locker room standing in Janssen's signature crouch, with his customary lime-green goalie stick head, wearing a jersey with Janssen's No. 35 on the front with a pillow stuffed under the shirt.

Janssen, who posted a 6.71 goals against average and 66.1 save percentage this year as the starting goalkeeper for Adelphi and was about to face Limestone in the NCAA Division II national semifinals, only had one way to respond to the parody.

"They were making fun of me with that, so I made it my profile picture," said Janssen, good-naturedly. "It was amusing, but at least I was on their mind."

"It looked pretty funny and we all had a laugh," added Adelphi head coach Gordon Purdie.

Janssen and the Panthers had the last laugh. Janssen made 15 saves and Adelphi snatched a 14-11 win over the prolific Limestone team on its own field to advance to the national championship game this Sunday at 4 p.m.

"It was funny, but at the same time, you've got to try to show them up a little bit during the game," said Janssen, who has helped guide the Panthers back to the title game for the first time since 2001.

While the online needling added fuel to the competitive fire, it's easy to see why the Saints goofed on Janssen. For those looking for a technical goalie who follows the standard keeper playbook, don't watch the Adelphi junior. He squats very low in the goal mouth while holding his stick extremely high, giving opposing shooters a look they've never seen before.

It's a look that scared off many college coaches.

"I was told during the recruiting process that my style was unorthodox and it wouldn't work in the college game," Janssen said. "I was getting emails saying, 'You play well, but we don't think you'd be a good fit at the college level.' It was a little demoralizing, because I know I can stop the ball. My style is definitely weird, although I've fine-tuned it a little bit. Stance-wise, I'm kind of big, but I get low and I keep my stick up. It's just a weird way of stopping the ball, but it works."

It's taken a couple of years for Janssen to get his chance to stop balls for the Panthers. During the winter of his freshman year, he tried to follow his coaches' offseason edict and shed a couple of pounds before the start of the spring and ended up busting up his knee while doing wind sprints on an icy track. That was followed last year when he was third fiddle to seniors Devin Schneiderbauer and Zach Bates.

Late in one of the last games of the 2010 season, Purdie looked to Janssen to give him a couple minutes as a reward for a season of hard work. The sophomore told his coach to leave senior Sean Quinlan in a little longer.

"Quinny worked hard for four years and he didn't even get a shot for the five minutes he was in,"  Janssen said. "I knew that I would be playing down the road and it would be important for him to stay in and get some shots. He actually did extremely well. The next five minutes he got bombarded, but he made every save. It was totally worth it, and I'd do it again."

"I went up to him after the game and I said, 'Eric, good things are going to happen to you because of what you have done here,'" Purdie said. "If you know Eric, he is the guy who cares most about others. He is certainly a guy who stands up for what he believes. He shows that through his actions and his generosity."

Jenssen is generous except when he is on the field. Purdie credits him for single-handedly winning games against St. Michael's and Merrimack during the regular season. The coach can go game by game illustrating how Jenssen has been a difference-maker, but it's simpler for Purdie to call Janssen his team MVP.

It's cheaper, too.

"We stopped giving out game balls to Eric a while ago because he had more balls in his locker than we had in the shooting bag," Purdie said.

Credit the unorthodox style or his ability to simply stop the ball, but Janssen is one of the key reasons, along with the seasoned defense in front of him, that Adelphi is playing for a national championship.

"You just can't teach what he is doing right now," Purdie said. "The reason why we beat Limestone was because they couldn't shoot anymore. They kept trying to get on top of the goal and punch it in because they knew he had the ability to eat up their regular shots."

"Limestone had a lot of good shooters and finishers and some cannons from the outside, but it definitely helps when you start making a few saves," Janssen said. "I made a couple of saves on some looks like that. As a shooter, all you need to do is hesitate for just a half second and the look isn't there anymore."

It's that hesitation that Janssen is looking for. Make fun of his unorthodox style and his lime green head all you want. Heck, you can even poke fun at him via social media. Mercyhurst just needs to understand that if it takes Eric Janssen lightly, he'll have the last laugh.

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