Andrew Hammond fondly remembers his National Hockey League debut with the Ottawa Senators last season.
The former Falcon goalie is hoping to return to the NHL in the near future.
And on a more permanent basis.
Hammond made his NHL debut last season on Feb. 27 when he stopped all 11 shots in a 35-minute relief appearance against the Detroit Red Wings.
“It was nice to get my feet wet, but I’m hoping to get a little more action the next time I get a chance,” Hammond said.
This fall, Hammond is starting his second season with the Senators’ organization.
The 26-year-old was 25-19-3 in 48 games last season for Ottawa’s American Hockey League affiliate in Binghamton, N.Y. Hammond had a 2.81 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage.
“I want to concentrate on having a really good year,” Hammond said. “If I get called up again, I want to take full advantage of it.”
Hammond signed with Ottawa in the spring of 2013 after an outstanding four-year career with the Falcons.
He finished his career as one of the best goalies in BG history, ranking second in goals-against average (2.84) and fourth in save percentage (.906). He appeared in 119 games from 2009-13.
“My main goal this season is to turn into that No. 1 goalie for Binghamton and prove I can be solid in the American Hockey League on a consistent basis,” Hammond said.
“Hopefully, that will turn maybe into doing the same thing at the National Hockey League level.”
Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner again will battle for Ottawa’s No. 1 job in goal.
Hammond is one of three goalies who will compete for playing time in Binghamton.
The others are Chris Driedger and Scott Greenham.
Driedger, a 20-year-old who played for Calgary in the Major A Western Hockey League last season , is a first-year pro. He’s a Senators’ draft pick, going in the third round/76th overall in 2012.
Greenham, who played at the University of Alaska (Fairbanks) from 2008-2012, split last season between Binghamton and Elmira in the East Coast Hockey League.
The 27-year-old played in 27 games for Elmira and five games for Binghamton.
Hammond participated in the Senators’ rookie training camp, which was held Saturday through Monday, and he’ll be in the NHL team’s training camp which starts later this week.
“I have to prove I can do it on a night in, night out basis,” Hammond said. “It took me longer than I expected last year for me to come into my own.
“But towards the end of the season, I started to play consistently and was able to get more games due to injury and what not. From there, I really started playing with confidence and that was the main thing for me I was missing, that confidence to play well every night.”
Hammond’s first pro season was a learning experience. The AHL is the top minor league in pro hockey.
“I found a lot of respect for the caliber of the American Hockey League,” Hammond said. “You really have to be at the top of your game every night. For me, the biggest adjustment was the players have so much patience at that level. You have to be that much smarter and thinking a little bit farther ahead about what’s going to happen.
“The faster you can process all of the information, the better off you’re going to be.”
Hammond’s summer workouts included sessions in BG and in Detroit with former Falcon teammate and defenseman Bobby Shea. Shea is in training camp with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, an affiliate of the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens.
Those workouts were just part of a busy summer for Hammond, who married Marlee Teadt in August. The couple met during Hammond’s freshman season at BG.
“I feel good about my game and where I’m at right now,” Hammond said. “I had a pretty good summer. The way I played at the end of last year, I just need to pick up where I left off. I’m excited to get the season under way.”
But the highlight of last season for Hammond was his NHL debut in Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder was recalled from Binghamton a day earlier when Craig Anderson left the team to attend the birth of a child.
Hammond played the final 34:56 of Ottawa’s 6-1 loss. Lehner started the game and allowed all six goals on just 15 shots before coming out just 5:04 into the second period.
Hammond faced a number of quality scoring chances from the Red Wings.
“For me personally, it was a good result, but I would have had a better result for the team,” Hammond said. “The team helped me out a lot.
“Just having the overall experience of playing in an NHL game, I’ve been there now and I know what pace is, I know what to expect. I’ll be more prepared for the next time if I do get the chance.”
Hammond learned of his recall after practice with Binghamton that day. He then had another short stint with Ottawa in late March, but didn’t see any game action.
“From there, it was a whirlwind from finding out I was going up and then going into the game,” Hammond said of his first tenure with Ottawa. “I just tried to make the most of the opportunity I got.”
Hammond joined Ottawa, knowing his only chance to play would come if Lehner was hurt or didn’t play well.
“You try not to think about that,” Hammond said. “I knew I had to be ready, so I prepared to be ready for what might happen.”
The painting of Hammond’s new mask this season has gained national attention, thanks to two pop culture references.
The mask includes images of the Hamburglar, Hammond’s nickname at BG; and Alfred E. Neuman of Mad magazine fame. Hammond and Neuman both have red hair. The mask also has Hammond’s name on the front at the bottom of the chin.
The mask was featured on Yahoo! Sports last month. Jason Bartziokas painted it.
“He got some ideas and ran with it,” Hammond said. “It was his creative talents and I’m happy with the way it turned out. I wanted people to like it, but I didn’t expect to end up on Yahoo! Sports or anything like that. People have enjoyed it.”