Mario Petit prepares for action in the tunnel before a game with the Everett Silvertips. Petit will fight for a starting job with the Kootenay Ice at their 2017-18 training camp. (Chris Mast Photo via Everett Silvertips)

Mario Petit prepares for action in the tunnel before a game with the Everett Silvertips. Petit will fight for a starting job with the Kootenay Ice at their 2017-18 training camp. (Chris Mast Photo via Everett Silvertips)

Mario Petit eager for opportunity with Kootenay Ice

New goalie acquisition grateful for chance to stay in WHL, hopes to make most of 20-year-old year

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.

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.