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Bemidji State alum Climie sees opportunity, signs one-year contract with Phoenix Coyotes

Bemidji State alum Matt Climie has spent the last three summer offseasons in the Bemidji area.

His plans to come back for a fourth summer changed Friday.

Climie signed a one-year contract with the Phoenix Coyotes on the second day of the NHL free agency period, jumped in his car and headed for Phoenix to prepare for the upcoming season.

"It's been really an exciting couple of days," Climie said. "This was my first time being an unrestricted free agent so I didn't quite know what to expect. I received offers from a number of teams and it really came down to what I felt was the best opportunity."

Climie, a goalie and Alberta native, also considered offers from Nasvhille, Vancouver and Boston before choosing Phoenix.

"The overall feeling I had leaned me to Phoenix and also (head coach) Dave Tippett. He wanted me to come there," Climie said.

Tippett coached the Coyotes to the playoffs last season one year after he was fired as the Dallas Stars head coach. Tippett watched Climie's progress in his first full professional season with Idaho and called up Climie to play in three games for Stars in that 2008-09 season.

"There are so many, so many goalie spots available in the NHL right now and I just wanted to go to a place where I could be a third goalie with the potential to step up as a backup in the NHL," Climie said.

With starter Illya Bryzgalov and backup Jason Labarbera listed as the top two goalies in the Coyotes organization, Climie will likely begin next season with San Antonio in the American Hockey League with former Michigan star Al Montoya.

Bryzgalov and Labarbera are entering the final year of their contracts so competition should be fierce throughout the upcoming season.

Climie capped his most successful professional season yet last month by leading the Texas Stars in the AHL's Calder Cup playoffs.

He played in 43 games during the regular season for the Dallas affiliate and finished with a 21-17-3 record. His save percentage of .919 ranked seventh in the league and his goals against average of 2.46 ranked 10th in the league.

Climie did not initially get the starting role when the Calder Cup Playoffs started, but took over in the semifinal round when starter Brent Krahn went out with a concussion in Game 6.

Climie extended Texas' season in Game 7 and rallied the Stars in the conference finals with a combined 92 saves in Games 6 and 7 to reach the Calder Finals. Texas lost to Hershey in the Calder Finals in six games.

"I was just thrown in when Brent went out and just rolled with it and played really well," Climie said. "It's pretty tough to put into words the whole experience. It was a special group of players - we may not have been the fastest or the toughest - but we had a lot of character."

Climie earned a call up to play for Dallas late in the regular season and lost 5-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks after giving up a goal to Marian Hossa in the first minute of the game.

"I've thought about how things have gone for me the other day," Climie said. "You're put into some of these tough spots and you can't help but grow with your experience. I learned a lot in Houston, Idaho and Texas. You try to take something away from each of those experiences and use that to earn a spot in the NHL."

Climie still keeps up with the Bemidji State men's hockey program and is excited for the new era in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

BSU officially became a member of the WCHA on Thursday.

"I was worried for awhile, to be honest, if BSU was going to get into the WCHA," Climie said. "But it's great for the town and all the people who have put so much into Bemidji hockey."

Climie remains grateful for the opportunity he had at Bemidji State from 2004-2008, where he set the school record for shutouts (12) and ranks second all-time in goals against average (2.16) and save percentage (.913).

"Playing in Bemidji was definitely a part of the process to get to where I am now," Climie said. "I went there as an old goalie at 21-years old and they took a chance on me. Those were strong years for me where I grew up as a person and as a goalie."

While Bemidji won't be Climie's summer home this offseason, he will be around familiar faces from Minnesota. He plans to reconnect with friend and former BSU baseball player Shaun Corbett in Phoenix.