It was a day to remember for Nolan Maier.
The 16-year-old rookie goalie made several key saves on the way to a 3-2 victory for the Saskatoon Blades over Prince Albert Sunday afternoon.
“It feels great,” Maier said post game, after his 34-save performance. “Whenever the pucks are hitting you on hard plays, one-timers, it makes me feel good about my game and it continued throughout.”
Maier’s play stole the show on the Blades’ Teddy Bear Toss day, which saw hundreds of stuffed animals thrown on to the ice when Cameron Hebig found the net at the five-minute mark of the first period.
Thousands of 🐻's hit the ice but this guy might be the biggest!! pic.twitter.com/hbmXckZyEv
— Saskatoon Blades (@BladesHockey) December 10, 2017
“I love it and it’s for a great cause but you kinda want that out of the way,” said head coach Dean Brockman, who also had high praise for his young goaltender.
“He’s a super kid and I would never have guessed he would start 10 games and play the way he is.”
Bradly Goethals and Alec Zawatsky had the other goals for Saskatoon, as the Blades and Raiders took turns scoring. Goethals beat Raiders netminder Ian Scott with a backhand on a breakaway in the second period. Zawatcky ripped a wrist shot from the slot into the top corner for the eventual game-winner.
“A really gutsy effort on our half and the guys found a way to get it done,” Brockman said, with Saskatoon coming into the game a day after a 4-1 home loss to Kamloops.
“We found ways to do things right today, just found a way to do it.”
Almost thrust into the starting job with an injury to veteran goalie Ryan Kubic, Maier has had a whirlwind first season in junior hockey. Starting the year with the SJHL’s Yorkton Terriers, Maier faced an average of nearly 50 shots per game, including a 67 save performance in a 5-2 loss to the Battlefords. He also represented Canada at the World U-17 Challenge before being recalled by the Blades. He has started the last 10 games for Saskatoon.
“I never thought at the start I would have the shot I am getting now,” Maier said, adding the consistent starts have been good for his confidence.
“Being able to get a whole bunch of shots and feel I am performing well for my team.”
As Kubic remains day-to-day with an injury, Maier may start his 11th straight contest on Tuesday, when Saskatoon faces Lethbridge.
Puck drop is 7:05 p.m. at SaskTel Centre.