Competition heats up in Kodiaks’ crease
Camrose Kodiaks goalie Landon Pavlisin looks back as the puck rings off the post and Fort McMurray forward Logan Shaw looks on during the Kodiaks’ Alberta Junior Hockey League exhibition tournament in Camrose on Sept. 1. Fort McMurray won 1-0 in a shootout. Josh Aldrich/ Camrose Canadian
The Camrose Kodiaks went into training camp with a giant question mark in arguably the most important position on the ice.
General manager and head coach Boris Rybalka did little to address their hole in net during the summer through trade, instead looking to youth to fill the void left by graduating starter Patrick Gora.
As the Kodiaks head into the third week of their Alberta Junior Hockey League training camp, a few contenders for the position have emerged. As of Tuesday night, four goalies remained on the roster — returning back up Joey May, and newcomers Landon Pavlisin, Devin Reagan and Griffin Bowerman — though by the time of publication they will likely be down to three.
The most impressive of the four, so far, has been Pavlisin, who has travelled the furthest to join the team as he has not allowed a goal in either of his two exhibition games. He stopped all 24 shots he faced in a 1-0 shootout loss to the Fort McMurray Oil Barons on Friday, and all 11 shots fired his way in the second half of the Kodiaks’ 5-3 win over the Drayton Valley Thunder on Tuesday at Encana Arena.
“He’s making a very good case for himself,” said Rybalka. “He’s calm in the nets … he’s played consistent, and that’s all you can ask your goalie to do is play consistent.”
Rybalka would not go as far as to anoint him starter or guarantee his place on the roster, only saying he is a strong contender on Tuesday night.
Pavlisin has taken the long road to get to Camrose. The Santa Ana, Calif., native grew up an Anaheim Mighty Ducks fan, watching Teemu Selanne fly down the wing. The tier I U18 team he played on last year was called the Anaheim Jr. Ducks and borrowed the Southern California hockey club’s logo and colour scheme.
After attending the B.C. Hockey League’s Penticton Vees main camp with his Jr. Ducks team for experience, he got a call from new Kodiaks’ associate coach Nigel Dube about a wide-open competition in the Camrose crease. It hasn’t taken him long to establish himself.
“It’s a really nice city, great players, they all welcomed me in, super nice,” said Pavlisin, 17.
“I’ve got a great team in front of me, blocking a lot of shots for me so I don’t have to do much work.”
Dube had seen him play when he tried out for the Minot Minotauros of the North American Hockey League this summer before joining the Kodiaks. The team’s other U.S. scouts had seen him play as well and gave Rybalka the thumbs up.
While his regular season numbers from last season do not jump off the page — 3.43 goals against average and .881 save percentage — he showed his big game potential in two playoff contests, holding down the fort with a 1.00 G.A.A. and a .971 save percentage.
“We were up against some really good teams, I did have a couple of rough weekends but I usually came back from it,” said Pavlisin, adding it was his first year at the AAA level.
Pavlisin started out, like many Southern California hockey players out on the roller rinks. But when the local rink was shut down, he eventually shifted to the ice, following in the footsteps of his older brother. It was then, at the age of 10, when he put on the goalie pads for good.
He was sucked into the game, giving up other sports like soccer and baseball to concentrate on stopping pucks.
Pavlisin is the youngest of four siblings and while being away from family is tough, he says it is worth it for the hockey.
“My billet family I’m staying with right now is great and the team is real welcoming,” he said. “I know my parents are going to come to see me every once in a while, they can’t stand being away from me for that long.”
Whoever winds up in net for the Kodiaks, they will be hoping for a more solidified blue-line in front of them. With a deep set of forwards, Rybalka said defence is a position they may have to look at filling.
He did trade for Cale Chalifoux as a calming presence for the unit, but the losses of Jack Thomas, TJ Brown, Jack McCool and Joe Tambasco still loom large.
“You look at the youth on the blue line and the goaltending, if they keep improving, that’s the big thing,” said Rybalka, who is preaching more of a team defensive effort as they advance. “The forwards … they can help out on the back end.”
Rybalka added they will soon be down to either 24 or 25 players, a number they can carry until Jan. 10 when they have to cut their roster down to 23 players. Considering they started with 70 in camp two weeks ago, the coaches have been busy in getting their numbers down.
“The process has been good,” said Rybalka. “Now it gets into the routine — and it’s a tough routine — with lots of practice and lots of off-ice training, lots of games, so they get to see what it’s like.”
. They are now off until Sept. 15 when they travel to Drumheller to play the Dragons to start the regular season, and return to Camrose on Sept. 16 against Drumheller for their home opener at 7:30 p.m.
NOTES — Tate Coughlin, Cole Wyatt, Ethan Mack, Kyler Kupka and Nic Correale all scored for the Kodiaks on Tuesday. Brett Reed scored two goals for Drayton Valley with Josh Borynec getting the other. Griffin Bowerman stopped 10 of 13 shots fired his way in the first 30:11 of the game in the Kodiaks’ net. Rory Dumelie stopped 42 of 27 shots in the Drayton Valley net. The Kodiaks were in Drayton Valley on Wednesday and lost 7-0 in the rematch Regan stopped 13 of 17 shots while May stopped 14 of 17 shots. Joe McLeod stopped all 49 shots he faced in the Drayton Valley net. John Elliott scored twice for the Thunder while Zafir Rawji, Carson Lux, Drydon Wust, Matt Sparrow and Sam Anzai each scored once.