Former Kootenay Ice goaltender Nathan Lieuwen is taking his game to a new barn for the 2016-17 season.
After spending the first four years of his professional hockey career within the Buffalo Sabres organization, Lieuwen signed a one-year American Hockey League (AHL) contract with the San Antonio Rampage — a minor league affiliate of the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche — Tuesday.
The Rampage announced the signing of Lieuwen as well as the addition of goaltender Kent Simpson Tuesday afternoon.
“We’re happy to add both Kent and Nathan to our goaltending depth,” said Craig Billington, general manager of the Rampage, in a team release. “Both of these guys have experience in the National League and American League, and we’re looking forward to working with them this season.”
The 24-year-old Lieuwen — a native of Abbotsford — spent four full seasons with the WHL’s Kootenay Ice (2008-09 to 2011-12) where he went 85-67-7 with nine shutouts with a 2.76 goals-against average (GAA) and .903 save percentage (SP).
The 6-foot-5, 190-pound netminder played a vital role in Kootenay’s run to the 2011 WHL championship, earning WHL Playoff MVP honours.
That playoff performance earned Lieuwen enough recognition to be selected by the Buffalo Sabres during the sixth round (167th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
After wrapping up his junior career at the conclusion of 2011-12, Lieuwen graduated to the pro ranks and went on to make his NHL debut with the Sabres during the 2013-14 campaign. In seven NHL games that season, Lieuwen went 1-4-0 with a 2.98 GAA and .906 SP.
After signing a one-year contract to return to the Sabres’ organization, Lieuwen spent all of 2015-16 with the franchise’s AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans. In 28 appearances, he went 14-11-2 with a 2.91 GAA and .909 SP.
Over a four-year pro career, Lieuwen has appeared in 80 AHL outings, registering a record of 36-33-4 with a 2.73 GAA and .910 SP.
The Rampage finished the 2015-16 season with a record of 33-35-8-0, leaving them last in the seven-team Pacific Division and outside the AHL playoff picture.