January 1, 2007 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Dupont Trying to Engineer Success

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor

PRINCETON, N.J. — It can't hurt, growing up, to be regaled with NHL stories about famed goaltenders like Tony Esposito.

Like teammate Brent Kisio, whose father Kelly was a long-time NHL player, Nebraska-Omaha goaltender Jeremie Dupont had that benefit in his youth.

"My dad told me about being in airports and putting a $50 bill on a wire, and having fun pulling it around," Dupont said.

So, OK, the NHL stories are just as much about life lessons as on-ice tactics. But Dupont got plenty of everything from his dad, Jerome, an NHL defenseman in the 1980s, mainly for Chicago. Jerome — or Jerry, as he was known in his playing days — also passed on a lot by being Jeremie's youth coach up through junior.

UNO coach Mike Kemp believes that's why Jeremie Dupont, who just turned 18 years old two weeks ago, is mature for his age.

"That's been the most impressive thing about him," Kemp said. "He's got such a mature approach to the game, and a mature approach to his craft. His work ethic is really exceptional. So that's why I think his future is very good, because he's the kind of kid that will make a future for himself."

That has helped Dupont through a rough patch early in his collegiate career.

A highly-touted young goaltender, he was brought into a mix that includes Jerad Kaufmann, a sophomore who himself was a walk-on last season and wound up becoming the No. 1 netminder for the Mavericks. The team rode that Cinderella story to its first-ever NCAA tournament bid.

Kemp said he expected a rotation from the get go, because of Dupont's potential as a No. 1 goalie, but both goaltenders struggled in the early part of the season.

"We intended all along to go with a rotation, and we're not disappointed with the rotation," Kemp said. "Jerad started out slow. He got hurt over the summer and didn't have the great fall to get himself ready. He was out of conditioning ... He didn't do the kind of things he needed to do to get ready for the season. But over the last couple weeks, he's doing a great job."

Kaufmann also got himself into trouble, along with three teammates, with alcohol-related disciplinary issues. That led to suspensions in late November, and further put the onus on Dupont.

"It's been a learning experience," Dupont said. "The first half you learn the ropes and work hard and try to learn all the time. The second half ... age doesn't really matter. At the end of the day, I'm playing NCAA hockey and competing with guys 4-5 years older than me."

The numbers do not look great. Dupont, coming off a decent game against Princeton where he also allowed one bad short-side goal, has a 3.01 goals against average and .880 save percentage. Kaufmann is worse, at 3.22 and .877, respectively.

"It was an individual thing as well as a team thing," Dupont said. "We weren't playing great team defense and I wasn't used to as many great scoring chances. As we tightened it up, kept shots to a minimum where I had to make a few good or great saves, that's where we had success."

Both seem to have played better lately, and for Dupont, this is an important stretch that is not lost on him. In fact, this being his draft year — and he being a player projected to be drafted — he put that added pressure on himself.

"At the beginning, I might have been conscious of it," Dupont said. "But I realized I have to just play, and I'll get noticed if I do my job."

His maturity at this age is clear, in the way he handles himself, even if it hasn't fully translated on the ice yet. And in that respect, he is hoping to channel the likes of Tony Esposito.

"He was a bear on game day, and I'm kind of like that too," Dupont said. "I try to get in my zone from the moment I get up."

Dupont also lists Calgary as his favorite NHL team, mainly because his favorite NHL goalkeeper is Miikka Kiprusoff.

Since his father was a defenseman, Dupont looks elsewhere for goaltending guidance, getting it from renowned coach Benoit Allaire. Allaire, who has pupiled the likes of Jean-Sebastian Giguere and Henrik Lundqvist, preaches angles and "making the shooter hit you."

But Dupont still looks to his dad for inspiration.

"I've seen a few highlight reels, tapes, and the goals they scored," Dupont said. "To know he could do it ... I'd like to follow in his footsteps."

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