When Warriors GM Dan Richardson signed Aaron Bold backed in September, the expectation was that he would likely be in net for nearly every minute of game-time this season; and what a realistic expectation that was. Since 2012, Bold has played at least 850 minutes each season and has topped 1,000 minutes in three of those years due to his dominance.
That move, however, threw Eric Penney into a back-up role, something that has become too familiar for the 25-year-old pride of Mimico and Rexdale-native. Originally acquired by the Buffalo Bandits in the 2013 NLL Draft, Penney was shipped to the Vancouver Stealth in 2014.
His inaugural exposure to the NLL was to support Tyler Richards who was the team’s starter in Vancouver during the 2015 campaign. In his first season with the Stealth, Penney proved that he could step up to the task at the professional level. Starting in nearly every game that April, Penney posted two 50+ save games that month. That included a career-high 59-save effort on the road against the New England Black Wolves – it was also his first game where he allowed fewer than 10 goals in a start (he surrendered nine).
When Richards retired after the 2015 season, it seemed inevitable that Penney would at least be given the chance to start for the Stealth, but a monkey-wrench was thrown into that possibility when Richards came out of retirement and returned to the Stealth the following season. Nevertheless, Penney kept his head down, focused on becoming the best goaltender he could be, and tried to absorb as much as he could from his teammates, a strategy he has used throughout his career.
“I take feedback from anyone I played with or played against,” Penney told me previously. “A lot of the veteran guys, they give great input. Any information I get, I take in and do my best to use it.”
Fast-forward to 2019, working with Bold, goaltending coach Dwight Maetche and defensive coach Clayton Richardson, Penney once again feels that the veteran presence and years of experience they’ve logged has helped him greatly.
Penney is currently having his best season to date averaging a career and league-best 9.81 goals against average and a career and league third-best .790% save percentage. He has worked tirelessly with Bold, Maetche and Richardson since training camp to step up his game, and there’s no doubt the hard work is paying off.
“We go over positional stuff,” Penney said, giving an example of his talks with Bold. “Aaron can say to me, ‘you were a half-second late there, or, you’re anticipating at this moment, try and stay calm, patient and react to the ball.’
Penney’s relationship with Bold spans far greater than discussions about positioning. The chemistry and communication between the two on the bench, in practice and elsewhere has assisted Penney in becoming a more complete player with a higher level of confidence.