A Goaltender’s State of MindJan 19, 2023
By Paige Burnell/SanDiegoGulls.com
It’s all about mindset.
For Gulls goaltender Lukas Dostal, that means taking everything – from each game he plays to his personal goals – one step at a time.
"Just go day-by-day," Dostal said. "It's kind of the cliche everyone is saying, but I think for a goaltender it's really important to – also for the time off the ice - just relax and just focus day-by-day and just work hard."
It’s no secret that Dostal’s approach worked quite well for him this season, especially as of late. It was announced earlier this month the Brno, Czechia native was named a 2022-23 American Hockey League All Star.
"They picked the best goalie in the league," Gulls head coach Roy Sommer said. "I truly think he’s the best goaltender we’ve seen in this division, let alone the league. He’s kept us in a lot of games…You’ve got to give it to him – he’s a battler."
Dostal added this achievement to his already long list of accomplishments this season. It was only last week when he became the first netminder in San Diego’s AHL history to record consecutive shutouts with a 5-0 win on Jan. 6 at Milwaukee and a 3-0 victory against Henderson on Jan. 1.
Dostal also kept his opponents scoreless beyond his two shutout victories, posting a record-long shutout sequence of 152:31 minutes spanning over four games from Dec. 9, 2022 – Jan. 7, 2023, passing the previous record of 137:13 (Oct. 21-30, 2015, spanning three games) set by current Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson.
However, for Dostal, those four games remain separate events.
"If you have a good day (or) game, just enjoy it that night," he said. "Just enjoy it and have a good feeling. Take the good things out of it…Then, just put it under the table and focus for the next day. It's probably the best way you can manage it to play the games."
One by one, Dostal continues to shatter records, which doesn’t exclude those he recently set on his own. Over the course of the season, he tied, set and reset the franchise’s all-time record for the most shutout victories.
Dostal earned his third career shutout – and his first of the season - with a 7-0 win against Henderson on Nov. 8, 2022 (also: 4-0 win on Feb. 26, 2022 at HSK and a 3-0 win on Mar. 11, 2022 at BAK), tying Reto Berra for the most in the franchise’s AHL history. He proceeded to pass Berra as the franchise’s all-time leader with his fourth shutout against Henderson, ringing in the new year with a 3-0 win on Jan. 1. Then, he broke his own record by backstopping the Gulls to a 5-0 win in their next game in Milwaukee on Jan. 6.
The 22-year-old also made 40 saves in his most recent 5-0 victory on Jan. 6, which represents the second-most stops made in a shutout in Gulls AHL history (46 saves, Reto Berra, 5-0 vs. SJ on Jan. 5, 2018). In addition, this is the second consecutive season Dostal recorded multiple shutouts (2021-22; 4-0 win on Feb. 26, 2022 at HSK and a 3-0 win on Mar. 11, 2022 at BAK).
"It's the stuff that you don't see," Gulls goaltending coach Jeff Glass said regarding Dostal. "It's not just the technical thing that he's doing right or wrong. It's managing all the minutes and managing how much effort he has to put it in what aspects and controlling what he can control. This year, he's done an outstanding job of really going out and taking care of himself so that he can present the best version of himself every day. For me, as a coach, I all I can ask is that when he when he comes to the game, he's ready to play and he can present and perform at the top to his capabilities, and that's what he's done this year."
Dostal doesn’t stray from taking things one thing at a time, but in view of his overall performance this season - from being awarded Howie’s Hockey Tape/AHL Player of Week for his performances in net from Nov. 6-13 to his being named a 2022-23 AHL All Star - the steady improvement of his play is more than apparent.
The Anaheim Ducks certainly took notice.
Prior to the first his back-to-back shutouts, Dostal appeared in seven games with the Ducks from Dec. 12-23, posting a 2-3-0 record with a 3.53 GAA and .909 SV%. The netminder set an NHL career high with 46 saves on Dec. 17 against Edmonton and became the first Ducks rookie to make at least 40 saves more than once with 42 saves on Dec. 23 against Calgary.
"He's got a bigger picture, the bigger goal in mind right now," Glass said. "It's all just pieces to the puzzle and I think he's getting closer to his goal, but we all know that there's lots more there and so he enjoys that stuff. I think he enjoys winning hockey games; enjoys playing well, but I think he understands it's all part of the process to get him to wherever he wants to be."
On pace with his modus operandi, Dostal compartmentalized his time with the Ducks and his aspirations to be a permanent fixture in the National Hockey League. This enabled him to kick off 2023 with the Gulls on a clean state, which quickly filled up with shutouts.
"I was up (with the Anaheim Ducks) for a while," Dostal said. "So, I was just focusing for that and (I) just got back. I don't really think the goalies carry their streak if they're going back and forth. So, just tried to focus for my game and just tried try to stop as many pucks as I can."
If the past lends any indication of what Dostal will bring to San Diego this season, there is no doubt that he will help his team to success as he reaches his own aspirations as well.
"I've been with this guy for three years now, and he's been like that for three years," Gulls center Benoit-Olivier Groulx said of Dostal. "I don't expect nothing less than this guy. We're probably taking it for granted a little bit - he's probably the best goalie in the league. We're really lucky to have him. When he's playing like that for us, it gives us a big confidence boost and a big chance to win some games."