Comb through stats for Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) goalies, there is quite the race in the wins column. Especially among the rookie goalies.
As of Jan. 22, 2020, North Okanagan Knights goalie Sean Kanervisto leads rookies with 14 victories.
Fernie Ghostrider Ethan Fitzgerald and Revelstoke Grizzlies’ Andrew Palm are tied with 12, then Bretton Park of the Columbia Valley Rockies with 11 and Michael Toole of the Kelowna Chiefs has 10.
Wins is the lone stat that Kanervisto and Toole concern themselves with.
Kanervisto has been happy with how he has played for the Knights, but his competitive spirit has him wishing he could do more, including to win every game. The San Diego, Calif., product entered his first KIJHL season wanting to improve his conditioning, an area that has always been a struggle.
“I have always been a pretty technical goaltender,” says Kanervisto, who last season played in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League with Pacific Coast Academy Prep. “All the techniques, I have always been pretty decent with.”
Kanervisto has enjoyed playing in the KIJHL saying the talent is pretty good. While he hasn’t noticed a difference in the players’ shooting skills, he has seen that they are stronger. Kanervisto, who works on a farm, focuses on getting better each day.
Knights coach Dean McAmmond says Kanervisto is great at making the first save.
“He gives us a chance to win every night,” says the retired NHL forward. “He battles to make the stops. He’s not panicked. I don’t see him getting rattled in there too much. He has confidence in the net.”
Given the opportunity, McAmmond believes Kanervisto has the skills to make the jump to Junior A.
Toole, a Chiefs backup, has experienced ups and downs, including dealing with an injury. Playing behind one of the best teams in the KIJHL, the Calgary native says he’s played pretty good. Playing behind a strong team makes his job easier. He has faced 353 shots and stopped 317 for a .898 save percentage.
He credits his success to maintaining focus and showing up to the rink ready to work. Toole is driven to keep improving because he wants to play at the junior A level and has already been called up by the Penticton Vees in the B.C. Hockey League. The well-spoken Toole hopes that is an opportunity that works out.
Toole has been able to improve his skills from watching teammate Braeden Mitchell.
“There is so much to learn there. I can’t really put words onto how great it has been having him there,” says Toole.
Because of his five-foot-11, 170-pound frame, he plays more of a reactive style, similar to Jonathan Quick. Toole knows it’s important for him to move around the crease fast.
Like Kanervisto, Toole has enjoyed his time in the KIJHL.
“It’s a lot better than I thought it was going to be,” says Toole. “The league has gotten way better. I’ve had friends who played four or five years ago and it’s … completely different.”
With 12 wins in 17 games, Palm feels he has been very solid for the Revelstoke Grizzlies. When starter Noah Desouza got injured in November, that gave the Whistler native a chance to get in extra games.
In joining the defending Teck Cup (KIJHL championship) and Cyclone Taylor Cup champs, Palm knew the Grizzlies would be good. He came in wanting to help the Grizzlies repeat as provincial champions.
Personally, Palm is focused on improving his rebound control and becoming more patient. He wants to avoid diving for saves and “more using my size and my positioning rather than my athleticism to stop pucks.”
“I felt like that has helped me a lot,” says Palm, adding his puck handling has gotten better. “It’s a confidence thing for me.
“When there’s huge [players] rushing at you down the ice, you get nervous and might bobble the puck every once in a while,” he says. “It’s been good for me to get some time with our goalie coach.”
Palm looks up to Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens and Carter Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers.
“It’s been really cool just to watch how quick he is and calm he is,” says Palm of Hart. “How he has been able to take over the starting role in Philadelphia at such a young age.”
As for Price, Palm admires how smooth the B.C. product is and his confidence.
“He looks like he is always in control. Super fun to watch.”
With the KIJHL regular season in the final stretch drive, it will be interesting to see how the rookies goalies finish. Who will finish with the most wins?