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Puck stops with Carrozzi

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Mississauga Majors goaltender Chris Carrozzi is keeping some pretty good company these days.

The 20-year-old was named as the Ontario Hockey League’s top goaltender on Monday, putting his name alongside rising standout NHL netminders like Craig Anderson of the Colorado Avalanche and Steve Mason of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“It’s an honour,” said Carrozzi. “When you look back at some of the names who have won this award, there are some pretty big names who are playing in the NHL and playing pro, so to be in that category by winning this award feels really good.”

The Ottawa native received a total of 59 points in voting by OHL general managers, with Plymouth Whalers netminder Matt Hackett (48 points) and Patrick Killeen of the Brampton Battalion (27 points) rounding out the top three. Carrozzi finished the regular season with 19-10-3-2 record and had the league’s second lowest goals-against average 2.36 and a .916 save percentage.

Carrozzi split the Majors’ goaltending duties with JP Anderson, who will turn 18 on Tuesday. Anderson was given the bulk of the starts during Mississauga’s second-round series against the Ottawa 67’s. But according to Cameron, the change in net had more to do with shaking up his team, than with Carrozzi’s performance.

“I didn’t think my team was as sharp as it had to be, so I changed my goaltenders knowing that if Anderson came in I wouldn’t hurt myself in term of the quality of goaltending I had,” Cameron said Tuesday on the eve of the OHL championship series opener between the Majors and the Windsor Spitfires. “I needed to send a message to my team.”

Carozzi took the news in stride, staying positive and waiting patiently for his call.

“He’s really matured this year,” said Cameron. “I think he might have been down in previous years, but this year he handled it like a pro.”

The Majors, who had the fewest goals surrendered this season (175 in 68 games), were eventually beaten by the Barrie Colts in the Eastern Conference final.

Another bonus for the Majors was the good relationship between the veteran Carrozzi and his pseudo-understudy Anderson. While every goaltender’s wish is to play every night, Carrozzi says he never viewed Anderson as a rival -- though he does admit Anderson has helped make him better.

“JP is a high-calibre goaltender, too. He’s a great guy on and off the ice, so we have a good time together,” said the sixth-round pick of the Atlanta Thrashers. “We’d both be on the ice early and on the ice late at times and he’s always been a guy that’s pushed me, even from his first year in the league. He’s always wowed me with how he’s practised and how he’s played, so that kind of helped my game out, too, learning some things (from) him, just as he’s learned things off me… it’s definitely made us both better.”

Carrozzi is the third goaltender in the modern-day Majors franchise to win the award, joining Andy Chiodo (2002-03) and Bujar Amidovski (1997-87). Since taking over the team in the 2000 season, Cameron has almost perfected the balance of using two elite-level goaltenders, both capable of starting.

“I’ve always had two goalies and all my goalies have gone pro,” said Cameron. “Chris is going to pro and for him to win goaltender of the year in the OHL based on having someone else play some games, too, I think it’s a win-win for everybody.”

Sunaya Sapurji is the Jr. Hockey Editor at Yahoo! Sports. You can reach her at: sunaya@yahoo-inc.com.