February 25, 2011

The Evolution of Mammoth Goalie Chris Levis

from press release

DENVER - Looking back at statistics from a year ago, there was a significant difference between the first half of goaltender Chris Levis' season and the second half. The netminder, who appeared in 12 total games in 2010, recorded a paltry .704 save percentage in his first five appearances of the year. Then, something changed. Following a season-worst .615 save% (eight saves and five goals-against on 13 shots) against the Edmonton Rush on March 13, Levis' game turn a turn for the better.

Two weeks after the game against Edmonton, the Windsor, Ontario native posted a season-best .833 save% against the Washington Stealth. In his final seven games of the season (including the Washington game), Levis posted a .792 save%, an improvement of saving nearly one of out of every ten shots he faced compared to his first five games played. This year, Levis has picked up where he left off. His .781 save%, tops in the West Division, earned him his first All-Star team nomination.

When asked what changes he made midway through the season last year, Levis said that it was all about his approach.

"I didn't do anything in particular to change my game other than changing my pregame ritual a bit. I think going into the second half of last year we, as a defensive unit, decided to incorporate some different rules about how we were going to approach each game and I think that carried through with regards to our goals-against."

While Levis and the defensive unit seemed to click in the second half of 2010, the conclusion of the season left Levis determined to maintain his positive momentum during the off-season. While he wanted to pick up in 2011 where he left off in terms of save-percentage, Levis used the summer and fall months to test out a number of changes. The biggest was taking time away from the sport completely.

"I played a lot of hockey this summer and didn't play lacrosse for the first time in over 20 years," said Levis. "Our strength and conditioning coach, Joel Raether, put together a program that gave me some new insights into training. Doing both of these in the off-season allowed me to come into 2011 refreshed and feeling healthy."

Although Levis came into the season recharged, he also came in with added pressure, both internal and external. His off-season changes made him anxious to see how they would play out and his nerves entering training camp were high. That changed, however, the second the team was back together.

"Once I got into the dressing room and got around the guys, I found a lot of the pressure was alleviated," said Levis. "I realized it's a game and one that I love and enjoy playing, and was able to focus on just that."

The external pressure Levis was feeling was a result of the off-season roster changes that originally included the addition of Matt Vinc, the NLL's reigning goaltender of the year.

"Picking up Matt Vinc and then trading him to the Rochester Knighthawks, I think the bar was set from day one as to what kind of condition I needed to be in for this season. After we moved Matt, the team then signed some significant goaltenders - Curtis Palidwor, Matt King and Rob Blasdell - all starters in the NLL, so my job never got easier."

But, the 34-year-old said that the competition has made him do his job better.

"Having the competition around me allowed me to just focus on stopping the ball and making the most of my opportunities. Full credit to Matt King as well, as he continues to push me."

Levis constantly credits his teammates and those around him for his success. His approach to being named an All-Star is no exception.

"I wouldn't say the nod itself has boosted my confidence," said Levis. "I'm really honored to be playing in this game with the best players in the world, but I wouldn't look much further than the guys in my dressing room and my family over the last year. They have instilled their confidence in me and that's all I need."

Despite a less-than-stellar win-loss record in the first half of the season, Levis' outlook remains untainted.

"I believe our team has all the pieces - offense, defense, and coaching - to make a serious run in the second half."

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