Playing in the WHL as an overager is never an easy task.
With only three 20-year-old players allowed on each team, the opportunities can be limited to find a place to play, especially if you’re a goaltender.
While Mario Petit was not surprised that he wouldn’t be returning to the Everett Silvertips for the 2017-18 season, he was thrilled to have been given a chance with the Kootenay Ice.
“For a 20-year-old goalie, it’s pretty hard to stay in the league in the first place, [but] especially in my situation, where I don’t have too many games played, [it’s really tough],” Petit told the Townsman last Friday night. “It’s really nice to get an opportunity like this.”
Petit was traded to the Ice on May 25 in exchange for a conditional sixth-round selection at the 2018 Bantam Draft. He spent the past two seasons in Everett as a backup to two-time WHL goaltender of the year and recent Team Canada World Juniors netminder Carter Hart.
— Everett Silvertips (@WHLsilvertips) May 25, 2017
Despite his age, Petit only has 37 regular season WHL games to his name, compiling a career 14-8-7-1 record along with a 2.89 goals-against average (GAA) and .892 save percentage. In four career playoff games, Petit has a 3-0 record with a 1.30 GAA and .953 save percentage.
“I learned a lot from [Hart],” Petit said of his experience with the Silvertips. “He’s a phenomenal goalie [and] seeing the stuff he could do, it was inspiring and motivating to get better.
“[It is amazing though] to get my own opportunity to try to do something like he’s doing.”
While the road isn’t quite clear yet — Petit must still outplay Jakob Walter and Declan Hobbs for the starting job at training camp in September — if there’s one element of the veteran goalie’s game that isn’t lacking, it’s hard work.
“I get up at 6 a.m. and get ready to go train, and then, some days I have goalie sessions right after that,” Petit said of his summer workout schedule. “Then I go and work [at my construction job] for a couple of hours. [At] 8 or 9 o’clock, I go back to the gym.”
Petit is also ready to take on a leadership role with the Ice, a key part of being an overager that has been maintained by last year’s 20-year-old starter Payton Lee and his 20-year-old predecessor Wyatt Hoflin.
“I think I’ll be pretty comfortable with [being a leader], but the way I’ve shown my leadership is through my game and less talking,” Petit admitted. “Unless someone was feeling a little down, I could help them out [vocally, too].”
As for his personal goals for the season, if he’s fortunate to make the team this fall, Petit’s ambition are simple.
“[I want] to play the best I can [and] I just really want to win,” he said. “I want to move on from the WHL and play in a higher league too. I don’t just want to quit my hockey because it’s what I love to do. I’d like to put myself in a good position for next year.”
Petit will spend his off-season in Manitoba and will then travel to Cranbrook for the Ice’s training camp in September. Prior to the trade, the Silvertips had nine 20-year-old player on their roster. The Ice now have five overage players eligible to return.