Mathieu Bernier is proving that lacrosse goaltenders don’t need to follow a strict set of motions in order to succeed.
The 15-year-old Laval Titans ‘keeper utilizes an unorthodox playing style when facing his opponents. Instead of standing straight legged and rigid, like a wall, Bernier is fluid and aggressive. He prefers to lunge, kick and flail – anything to keep the ball out of the net.
“I don’t play with a normal base position, I’m kind of like Martin Brodeur out there, I just try to stop the ball the best way I can,” said Bernier.
Like Brodeur early in his National Hockey League career, his style is a bit jarring at first glance, but the results are clear. Last season, Bernier led the Titans to a provincial championship. They defeated the perennial powerhouse West Island Lacrosse Association (WILA) 5-4 in overtime.
In only his second year as a full-time goalie, Bernier not only has a championship under his belt, but he’s playing and excelling in a position not many players are interested in. He played forward for six years before suiting up as a goalie. And these days, Bernier feels most at home between the pipes.
“I just try to play my best, make the blocks, pick the ball, help on the attack and slow down the other teams offense,” he said.
In their most recent match, a 10-5 win over West Island, Bernier stood on his head once again. In the third period, with WILA bearing down on Laval, he stuck his neck out on several occasions. He flung his one free arm around, batting balls out of the air and fearlessly kicked at shots hurtling towards the net.
“He’s definitely a game changer for us,” said Laval head coach Andrew O’Rourke.
But Bernier is humble and prefers to heap all of the praise onto his teammates. It would be difficult without them, he says. My defense had to stop the best players on their team; all I had to do was stop the balls, Bernier added.
While his goaltending career is off to a scorching start, he hasn’t given much thought to his future in lacrosse. Bernier says that there aren’t many high-level teams playing in Quebec so it makes it difficult for players here to turn pro.
“The most important thing for me right now is to have fun,” he said.