Former University of Maine goaltender Ben Bishop was talking to his buddies in his native Des Peres, Mo., this past weekend.
He was sharing the news that had been called up Saturday by the National Hockey League’s St. Louis Blues.
“I said, I could be on a flight home from Alaska right now but [instead] I’m in the NHL. It’s surreal,” said the 21-year-old Bishop, referring to the Black Bears’ season-opening trip to Fairbanks, Alaska, where they lost to Alaska-Anchorage (3-1) and beat Alaska Fairbanks (2-0).
Bishop had been with the American Hockey League’s Peoria Rivermen, where he was 2-2 with a 2.44 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage.
Bishop is replacing Marek Schwarz, who had been called up to replace backup goalie Chris Mason. Mason recently underwent an emergency appendectomy and is expected to be out two weeks.
“It’s kind of crazy. I’m staying at [my parents’] home and playing in the NHL,” said the 6-foot-7 Bishop, a third-round draft choice (85th overall) of the Blues in 2005.
He will back up veteran Manny Legace.
“Things have been going well. We have a pretty good team in Peoria,” said Bishop, who attended the Blues’ preseason training camp. “Training camp was real good. I got to play in half a preseason game against Dallas and allowed one goal.”
Bishop, who had minor knee surgery this past summer, said passing up his senior year to sign with the Blues and then getting a chance to play in Peoria at the end of last season was beneficial.
“I went into training camp with a lot of confidence after playing in the AHL at the end of last year,” said Bishop, who concluded his three-year Maine career with a 55-37-7 record, a 2.29 GAA and a .917 save percentage. His 2,399 career saves are second most in school history behind Scott Kings’s 2,463.
He was third in games played (99) and save percentage and fourth in goals-against average.
Bishop had the opportunity to work out with the Blues players and goalie coach Rick Wamsley this summer and he said, “that really helped me out.”
He said he had a lot of fun at his first practice with the Blues.
“I was going up against guys like Paul Kariya, who also went to Maine,” said Bishop referring to the 1992-93 Hobey Baker Award winner.
He doesn’t know if he’ll get a chance to play this week. The Blues have home games against Detroit on Wednesday, Los Angeles on Friday and Florida on Saturday.
“I’m just going to take it day by day,” said Bishop.