Kootenay Ice goaltender Mackenzie Skapski may have picked up the WHL’s goaltender of the month for February, but he’s only one half of the goaltending duo for team.
Wyatt Hoflin is in his first year in the WHL, cracking the roster at training camp and has played the backup role to Skaspki, appearing in 14 games this season.
The two goaltenders have been under the tutelage of Mike Bergren, who was hired on as the goaltending coach in November, following the resignation of Justin Cardinal, who previously held the position, in September.
Begren works with World Pro Goaltending, based in Calgary, and has a connection with the Kootenay Ice, as he has worked with alumnus Jeff Glass in the past three off-seasons.
Hoflin hasn’t been getting a lot of game time experience in his rookie year, which means he has to earn his chance to start in the crease, which begins in practice, said Bergren.
“He’s got to put himself in the mindset that each start he has, he’s going to earn, and he’s going to earn with all the work he puts in,” said Bergren.
“…That’s how he’s going to get better throughout this year and into next year, is embrace that role a little bit but be picky with his game and understand that that’s just part of the process. You don’t get thrown in as a rookie guy to play a ton of games—it just doesn’t happen.”
Hoflin’s first year in the WHL is a jump up from Midget AAA, where he played last year with the St. Alberts Raiders.
“With Wyatt, he’s [Bergren] done a good job of trying to break some habits that are created through minor hockey and habits that we need to correct to become a successful goalie in the Western Hockey League, and there’s a big difference,” said Ice head coach Ryan McGill.
Bergren said Hoflin can use his size to his advantage, but needs to learn how to take his technical skills and apply them during practices and games.
“The biggest thing with Wyatt, coming in, is he can technically do all that stuff,” said Bergren, “he just needs to continue how to put it together each time he’s on the ice and do it the way it makes him successful.”
Hoflin has noticed Bergren’s impact on his game.
“He’s done a good job of bringing me back under control where sometimes I can be a little wild, and he just understands those are small movements—not moving too much, not moving too little,” Hoflin said.
The young 18-year-old recognizes his role as backup to Skapski, but knows there is opportunity for him if he works for it.
“It’s just being patient, working hard in practice and although you’re not getting the playing time, there are always things you can be working on,” Hoflin said.