Ever since splitting with Seattle in last year’s off-season trade, Cole Schwebius has been making himself at home with the Kelowna Rockets.
“I got a call at like 6:30 in the morning saying I’d been traded, and I went right back to bed. I honestly thought it was a dream,” Schwebius told Global News.
Born and raised in Kelowna, it was a dream come true for Schwebius.
“I woke up and I was like ‘Wow, I’m going to Kelowna,’ which has been, you know, a kind of childhood dream of mine,” he said.
Schwebius played minor hockey in Kelowna before moving on to attend the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton.
But he still remembers his time as a young Rockets fan, idolizing former Kelowna netminders like Adam Brown.
“I remember playing road hockey pretending to be Adam Brown,” said Schwebius.
Now, Brown is a fan of Schwebius.
“He’s a very good young man,” said Brown, the Rockets’ goaltending coach.
“He’s probably consistently one of the hardest workers on the team. He’s got that personality where he wants to do whatever it takes.”
It takes a lot of preparation to be a backup goalie in order to fulfill the expectations that come with the role.
“It’s extremely difficult and I think people don’t give backup goalies as much credit as they’re due,” Schwebius said.
A backup goaltender has to be consistent without a consistent schedule, play hot when called in cold and is expected to help snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
“There’s been a few times where Cole has been in that situation this year,” said Brown, “and he’s been sharp and he’s been ready to go and that is a testament to how he prepares for every game.”
For Schwebius, having support from family and friends is key to dealing with the pressure that being a backup brings.
“I know I’ve got a lot of people behind me in the stands, so it’s comforting and nice to know,” said Schwebius, who has logged more than 800 minutes between the pipes for Kelowna.
In 17 games, the 18-year-old netminder has a goals-against average of 3.50 and a save percentage of .902, posting seven wins and nine losses.
Schwebius says when and if the time comes in the Memorial Cup in May, he’ll be ready to come off the bench, make himself at home between the pipes and do what it takes to help the team win junior hockey’s biggest prize.