During the 2014-15 Western Hockey League campaign, fans in Cranbrook watched as goaltender Wyatt Hoflin rewrote the Kootenay Ice record book.
The native of Spruce Grove, Alta., calmly and quietly went about his business, setting franchise records for wins in a season (36), appearances in a season (67), minutes played in a season (3,848) and consecutive games played by a goaltender (29).
Now in his final year of junior eligibility, Hoflin is breaking out the ink and preparing to sign his name to yet another page of the Kootenay Ice record book.
With 264 saves, the 20-year-old will surpass former Ice goaltender Nathan Lieuwen for the franchise all-time record for saves (4,188).
“Obviously, with a couple better games here and there, it would have come a lot sooner,” Hoflin said with a smile, Thursday afternoon prior to practice at Western Financial Place.
To have blocked 4,188 pucks and been able to tell the tale is an impressive feat all its own. What makes Hoflin’s efforts all the more impressive is the time in which he has done it.
As it stands, the 6-foot-1, 182-pound puck-stopper has appeared in 148 career WHL games, making 3,925 saves along the way.
Lieuwen, who is in the midst of his fourth professional season in the Buffalo Sabres system, made his 4,188 saves over 178 career appearances — 30 more outings than where Hoflin stands now.
“My first year, it was a learning curve,” Hoflin said. “I learned a lot of life lessons. It kind of just built as I came through my career. Last year, it was one opportunity after another to showcase what I had to offer.”
Reliable between the pipes and easy going off the ice, Hoflin continues to showcase his abilities this season, as he sits fourth in the entire WHL with 1,168 saves to his credit.
With only 21 games remaining in his final WHL campaign, Hoflin won’t make it to Lieuwen’s franchise record 178 appearances, but there’s no questioning he will get to the saves marker.
While the saves record remains a few games away, Hoflin has a pair of personal milestones to look forward to en route and before his team’s season-long, five-game homestand comes to a close Feb. 12.
With 148 appearances notched in his belt, Hoflin is about to hit the 150-game plateau, a mark reached by only one other goaltender in Kootenay Ice franchise history — Lieuwen.
On the way to hitting 150 games, Hoflin will strike the 8,000 minutes-played mark. Again, a rare achievement for Kootenay Ice goaltenders, with Lieuwen (9,781 minutes in 178 games) and Jeff Glass (8,206 minutes in 143 games) the only other two to reach that stage.
“It’s huge for me,” Hoflin said. “For where I came from when I started here and the goalies that have been here, for me to get as much time in the net as I have, it’s a huge accomplishment for me and the hard work I’ve put in.”
Upon his arrival, Hoflin held the backup role behind Mackenzie Skapski, yet another professionally-accomplished netminder who Hoflin went on to by-pass in many major statistical categories.
With his WHL career slowly winding down, the student has now become the teacher, not only for 17-year-old backup Declan Hobbs, but for a youth-laden Ice squad that includes 10 first-year players.
“He’s been a great example for our young players, not just for Declan, but all of our young players, on the things you need to do to stay in shape and stay healthy throughout the course of a year,” said Luke Pierce, head coach of the Kootenay Ice, Thursday afternoon. “His work after games, after practices, you name it, he takes real good care of himself off the ice and it’s a credit to him and obviously a big reason why he’s been able to reach those types of milestones.
“He tries not to get too caught up in it. I think he does a good job of staying pretty even-keeled. He’s got that demeanour in practice, too. You don’t see him get fired up very effort. He’s pretty calm and emotions don’t go all over the place.”
Over the course of four WHL seasons in Cranbrook, Hoflin has compiled a regular season record of 53-72-2-4, along with four shutouts. On top of that, he’s appeared in 15 WHL post-season outings, with a record of 7-3-2.
If not for the overall struggles of his young club this season, that career record might be a lot shinier these days.
“He’s certainly a passionate guy,” Pierce said. “He’s let some of his teammates know throughout different games this year when he’s unhappy. Like any passionate player, he’s going to have that.”
There’s plenty of experience in those pads and Hobbs, in particular, has made sure to take note.
“I watch how he plays the game and how he approaches it, preparation and stuff like that,” Hobbs said.
“He’s really calm in the net, nothing really triggers his mind to go off in different places. He keeps a strong head…He controls the game real well with whistles and he knows when to play the puck and when not to. That comes with experience.”
Selected in the second round (37th overall) of the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft, Hoflin has delivered on that potential.
There’s no arguing his experience or track record since his draft day. A sizeable chunk of the Kootenay Ice record book proves Hoflin’s worth, and that chunk is about to get a little bit bigger.
Hoflin and the Kootenay Ice (8-39-4-0) welcome the Red Deer Rebels (32-16-1-2) to Western Financial Place Friday night for a 7 p.m. puck drop.