Colorado Mammoth goalie Tye Belanger is eager to continue to prove that he belongs in the NLL. (Photo: Brad Watson)
As the Colorado Mammoth continue to battle for a playoff spot, much of their success in the second half of the season has been the result of an improved defense, specifically their goaltending. Tye Belanger, the newest netminder to join the team’s active roster, is already turning heads in the NLL as one of the most promising young players between the pipes.
Drafted by Colorado with the 16th overall pick in the 2011 NLL Entry Draft, Belanger saw his first playing time in 2012 in a backup role behind former starter Chris Levis. One year later, Belanger was activated off the injured reserve and earned the starting job over teammate Dan Lewis, serving as the backbone for a resurgent Mammoth squad.
"For a kid that's 22 years old, he's finding his way and doing a great job for us," said Mammoth head coach Bob Hamley.
Belanger enters Week #13 with a 2-2 record and a .762 save percentage. On the road against the Buffalo Bandits in Week #10 in his first career start, he made 30 saves on 36 shots for a .906 save percentage, the highest by an NLL goalie in a complete game this season.
Belanger's most distinguishing feature is similar to that of Lewis in that he elects to sport a field lacrosse helmet rather than a traditional box goalie helmet.
"I used it my last year of junior and I just felt the difference,” Belanger said. “It’s a lighter helmet, breathes better. Protection-wise, if I get a ball straight in the face, it absorbs the impact because it's a full helmet opposed to just a face mask with a back plate...I feel like the shell of the field lacrosse helmet gives me more production."
Ironically, field lacrosse has been relatively absent from Belanger’s playing career.
"I never played field lacrosse until I was 16 and that ended at 19, so it was a short career,” he added. “Down in Wallaceburg, Ontario, we were more box-related and so field lacrosse I didn’t really pick it up until late. I stuck with box because I felt that’s where my career would end up going farther."
His career choice has been rewarding thus far and has brought him to the lacrosse hot spot that is Denver. Hungry to prove himself, Belanger hopes to impress enough in each outing so that Mammoth president and general manager Steve Govett and coach Hamley will elect to keep him in a Colorado uniform for years to come. In the meantime, Belanger aims to perfect his prowess in the crease each time his number is circled in the starting lineup.
"I just look forward to winning more games,” said Belanger, who called Denver the “best city in America.” “I just want to stay with this team, not looking too far ahead of myself. I'm not even looking past the next game...just going to build my resume and hopefully I'll be with this team for a while."
Looking to move up the standings in the tightly-contested West Division, Colorado will host the Philadelphia Wings at Pepsi Center on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET, live on Altitude and YouTube via The Lacrosse Network, as they try to clinch a postseason berth down the stretch with hopes of a deep playoff run.