Battle of the Orlemans: Sibling Goalies Go Head-to-Head in NLL Week 7


Kevin Orleman (left) and younger brother Steven Orleman were the first sibling goalies to go head-to-head in professional sports in over 40 years.

A text message prior to opening faceoff helped Kevin and Steven Orleman understand the historical significance of their matchup last weekend on Long Island. The brothers, separated by three years but often teammates growing up, were the first sibling goalies to go head-to-head in professional sports in over 40 years.

Their uncle let them know it hadn’t been done since Dave and Ken Dryden, who became the first goalie brothers in National Hockey League history to match up, in 1971. That hasn’t happened to anyone else in the NHL since, and it had never been done in the National Lacrosse League until Kevin’s Panther City Lacrosse Club and Steven’s New York Riptide met on Saturday.

The game also marked the first time Kevin, 25, and Steven, 22, have ever played against each other at any level.

“Pretty incredible stuff,” Kevin Orleman said. “It is pretty unique.”

And it almost didn’t happen.

Steven, in his first year with the Riptide, was told mid-week by New York coach Dan Ladouceur that the squad would instead be starting Gowah Abrams against an expansion Panther City squad.

“I fully respected the decision,” Steven said. “You’ve got to earn your starts in this league, and me and Gowah have been battling it out very equally. I totally got it.”

A missed opportunity for a memorable moment, he thought, but the news was made easier by the fact that his family wasn’t flying out for the game. Due to the current COVID-19 climate, the rest of the Orlemans were planning on streaming the game in Ontario.

A shaky start for the Riptide meant there’d be a reunion on the field after all.

Panther City, gunning for its first win as a franchise, opened the night on a 4-0 run in the first 10 minutes. That gave the team a solid cushion, one that would expand to five goals after three straight Panther City tallies pushed the advantage to 8-3 late in the second quarter.

That spurt spurred Ladouceur to make a change. He pulled Abrams in favor of Steven Orleman, and when the young goaltender got into his crease, he had too much on his mind to worry about the familiar face across from him.

“Knowing the position that our team was in, we were in very dire need to battle back,” Steven Orleman said. “Getting the win was the most important thing.”

On the other side of the arena, Kevin Orleman feared the impact a goalie change could have.

“First of all, I was obviously excited for Stevie to be getting the chance in the net,” he said. “I think the No. 1 thing that came to mind after my excitement for him was like, ‘OK, this is scary.’ Sometimes that goalie change can really spark the team.”

His worries came to fruition. The Riptide looked like an entirely different unit in the second half, eventually tying the score at 10 after a four-goal run. Overtime was needed after the teams traded goals down the stretch.

“You want your brother to do well, but then you’re also like, ‘Gosh I want us to score so badly’ because we needed to,” Steven Orleman said.

One of the Orlemans was finally beat nearly 11 minutes into OT, when Panther City’s Patrick Dodds got in good position to get the ball past the Riptide goalie for a 13-12 triumph.

“I was happy for him, too, to get their first win,” Steven Orleman said. “Obviously, I wish it was ours more, but I was proud of him.”

As the older brother, Kevin Orleman was the first to find a home in the crease. His younger brother, pushed by a desire for competition, quickly followed in his footsteps.

“It’s like that classic sibling rivalry of always trying to one-up each other,” Kevin Orleman said. “As we grew up and we matured, it really turned into a super supportive relationship. I’ve always been his biggest fan, he’s been mine, and we’re also each other’s harshest critics when it comes to the game and making sure we’re keeping each other accountable.”

In time, the pair developed into top-notch prospects. They served as a two-headed monster at the Jr. A level with the Kitchener-Waterloo Braves.

“Both these kids will be [National Lacrosse League] goalies one day,” Braves general manager Corey Hallman predicted in the Waterloo Region Record in 2020. “I’ve worked with some good ones, and I’ve seen every NLL goalie that’s come out of K-W in the last 25 years. These guys have that same passion for the game and drive to be the best that all the others shared.”

They bided their time in the NLL for two years together as members of the Georgia Swarm. Kevin Orleman, originally drafted by Georgia in 2016 and signed by the team two years later, served as Mike Poulin’s backup. Steven Orleman, drafted in 2018, was on the practice squad.

The duo made the most of working with one of the best the NLL has ever seen before getting a chance at larger roles this winter. Both have hooked on with franchises in their infancy, taking advantage of added opportunities created by expansion.

With the NLL ballooning from nine teams to 14, younger goalies are getting more game action than ever before.

“I’m super excited for the both of us,” Kevin Orleman said. “I’m a little envious of him, if I’m honest. This is my sixth year in the league, and I’m finally getting a crack at getting some real starting minutes. Looking across at Stevie, it’s his first year on an actual roster and already getting to play meaningful minutes in games, I think that’s a super cool thing for him to be able to do. I think that just speaks to how high his ceiling is as a goalie in this league.”

Kevin Orleman hasn’t given his brother too much ribbing this week about the result of the pair’s first battle. He understands it is just a matter of time until he’s on the other side of one of these matchups. Steven Orleman joked that it helps that his brother recently moved out on his own. Less of a reminder of the defeat.

“Hopefully, this is the first of many,” Kevin Orleman said. “We set the tone with an overtime nailbiter. The pieces are in place for it to be a great sibling rivalry over the years of our careers.”

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