Goaltender Wyatt Hoflin makes one of his 1

Goaltender Wyatt Hoflin makes one of his 1

The Workhorse

Goaltender Wyatt Hoflin continues to backstop the Kootenay Ice to success while setting records along the way

To say Kootenay Ice goaltender Wyatt Hoflin has seen a lot of rubber this season would be an understatement.

So how much rubber has the 20-year-old puck-stopper seen?

Enough to put him within 24 saves of becoming the holder of a brand new Kootenay Ice franchise record.

“It’s an accomplishment, but at the same time, it’s not much of an accomplishment if you’re not winning at the same time,” Hoflin said prior to practice Thursday afternoon. “For us, it’s just trying to get wins, trying to get points through this last stretch.”

Hoflin has done everything in his power to help his Kootenay Ice squad get wins and points this season, turning aside 1,700 pucks through 62 appearances heading into Friday’s date with the Medicine Hat Tigers.

With 24 saves, the native of Sherwood Park, Alta., will tie former Kootenay Ice goaltender Tim Winters for the franchise record for saves in a season.

It’s a record that has stood for the entire lifetime of the franchise, with Winters having set the mark by making 1,724 saves through 51 appearances for the Edmonton Ice in the team’s inaugural season (1996-97).

“Wyatt proved early, even when we were struggling, that we could trust him,” said Kootenay Ice goaltending coach Mike Bergren. “Part of that is his ability to be a good teammate. He’s a leader, but he’s a quiet leader. He knows now, more so than any other year I’ve had him, what he needs to do to approach the game properly, to pick apart his game when things maybe aren’t going so well.

“He earned our trust because we knew what we were getting from him pretty much every night.”

With trust comes ice time and with ice time comes opportunity. As a result, Winters’ saves record isn’t the only benchmark Hoflin has a shot at re-establishing before the 2014-15 WHL regular season comes to a close.

The three-year WHL veteran talks about winning being the most important part of the equation. The fact of the matter is he has been winning at a near record pace as well.

The humble netminder already has 33 triumphs under his belt this season, putting him within one win of tying the franchise record for victories in a season (34) shared by Dan Blackburn (1999-00), Jeff Glass (2004-05) and Mackenzie Skapski (2012-13).

Not too shabby. What other page of the Kootenay Ice record book Hoflin is preparing to splash fresh ink on?

He is closing in on a new franchise mark for games played in a season by a goaltender, with 62 to his credit thus far. Skapski holds the record, having suited up for 65 games in 2012-13.

Additionally, Hoflin is approaching Skapski’s franchise mark for most minutes played in a season by a goaltender. The New York Rangers prospect saw 3,642 minutes of crease time to establish the mark in 2012-13. Hoflin is 92 minutes shy of that, having played 3,550 minutes heading into the weekend.

We aren’t done yet.

Already in the books, Hoflin has established a franchise record for consecutive games played by a goaltender, appearing in 29 consecutive contests from Oct. 24 through Jan. 9.

The previous mark was held by Todd Mathews, who appeared in 25 straight games from Jan. 21, 2009 through March 14, 2009.

Okay, now we’re finished. Take a deep breath.

It’s safe to say Hoflin has done a pretty good job of proving himself in his first season as the go-to guy after serving as the backup to Skapski for two seasons prior.

“The extra time he had in the net last year when Mackenzie got hurt in November — he had to play nine straight,” Bergren said of Hoflin. “That kind of taught him about what he needs to do physically and mentally to stay, not just on top of his game, but to start recognizing things in his game that he needs to work on or zero in on to push him up to that next level.”

With the heavy workload for the entirety of his first season as the number-one guy, fans may be left to wonder how the 20-year-old goaltender is feeling, both physically and mentally, with the post-season right around the corner.

“I’ve actually been feeling really good lately,” Hoflin said. “The team’s done a good job of giving me rest when they have the opportunity and working with the goalie coach [Bergren], doing a good job finding ways to stay fresh throughout the game. It’s been good.

“I just work on short-term goals throughout the game. I look at it not as a whole game, but individual parts. Keep it more of a sprint, not much of a marathon.”

Heading into Friday’s game against the Medicine Hat Tigers, Hoflin’s 1,700 saves rank second in the WHL behind only Landon Bow (1,760) of the Swift Current Broncos. His 3,550 minutes played rank first amongst WHL goaltenders.

“He’s approached it really well,” Bergren said. “He’s done a great job of adapting to what we’ve needed. Initially, going into the season, we never go in intending to play a guy over 60 games like this. He’s already at 62. That’s an NHL workload. He’s done a great job handling it. He’s very mature and he’s very even keel. That helps him.

“He doesn’t get too high, he doesn’t get too low. He comes to the rink to work and he understands what his role is. He knows exactly who he is in the net. That’s one of the things that keeps him level.”

With the Edmonton Oil Kings only one point behind the Ice for the first wild-card seed in the WHL’s Eastern Conference, Hoflin is going to have to stay level heading down the stretch if his team hopes to hold on to that top wild-card spot.

“Hof’s been great for us all year,” said forward Luke Philp. “He’s played a ton. He’s played more than a goalie usually expects to play, I guess. He’s been great lately for us and he’s been a big part of us when we’ve been successful this year. He’s going to be a big part if we’re going to be successful in the playoffs, too.”

With the Tigers presenting a potential first-round playoff matchup for the Kootenay Ice, Friday night seems like a good opportunity for Hoflin and his teammates to find a little more success and perhaps a record or two to go along.

Puck drop between the Ice and Tigers is slated for 7 p.m. at Western Financial Place.

 

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