After being south of the border for almost two weeks, the Saskatoon Blades are back at home after a marathon of games through the U.S. division.
They only won two of their five tilts, but one goalie has emerged as a solid option in the crease, despite his youth.
On top of a gruelling road trip, Nolan Maier, 16, started in net for all five games.
“For him to be thrown into this is really kind of a little bit surreal for him and me, and to be honest he’s passed it with flying colours,” Blades head coach Dean Brockman said.
“At the start of the year when I was playing in the SJHL, it didn’t really help me being able to have my confidence up. But now that I’m here, I feel like I’ve really grown not only as a person but as a hockey player too,” Maier said.
Prior to the trip, the Yorkton, Sask., product had only played five games in the Western Hockey League (WHL). But he’s found his tempo, especially in a 4-0 shutout over the Portland Winterhawks, the best team in the WHL at the time.
“I probably did have the best game of my life, but being able to play good with our team playing well too is a real confidence booster for us,” Maier said.
“He’s very mature, he understands what’s going on, he understands the game really well and he’s really composed and when you have a kid like that everybody feels more relaxed,” Brockman said.
Maier will be between the pipes a little longer with Ryan Kubic still out with a knee injury. Meanwhile, the Blades have acquired another goalie, Hunter Arps, in a trade that saw Joel Gryzbowski dealt to the Victoria Royals.
“Growing up so close to Saskatoon, I always watched the Blades so I know it’s a great organization and being here they said, ‘we’ll see the progess on Kubic and see how he is’ and I’ll go from there,” said Arps , who hails from Pleasantdale, Sask.
Considering Maier has started the last eight games in a row, it’s possible that he and Arps could split duties this weekend against the Kamloops Blazers on Saturday and the Prince Albert Raiders on Sunday.