PHOTO –Eagle goaltender’s Ryan Bontorin (left) and Ryan Gilchrist have both found a home in Canmore.
UPCOMING HOME GAMES
Friday, Nov. 20 – Drayton Valley Thunder – 7 PM – RBC Night (http://m.mountainfm.ca/2015/11/20/eagles-host-the-north) for pre-game interview with Coach Jeremy Reich)
Saturday, Nov. 21 – Sherwood Park Crusaders – 7 PM
It’s hard to say who is happier with the Canmore Eagles current goaltending situation – the goalies themselves or the Eagles coaching staff!
When the Canmore Eagles opened this year’s training camp in late August, no one could have predicted that current goaltenders Ryan Bontorin or Ryan Gilchrist would be leading the charge and helping the Eagles to their best start in over a decade.
Bontorin was attending the Olds Grizzlys training camp for the third straight year, and Gilchrist was in Seattle, Washington trying to nail down a spot with the Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League.
As their training camps came to end in early September, both goaltenders were released by the Grizzlys and Thunderbirds respectively. With time running out, both goaltenders desperately needed to find a new team to ply their trades for the 2015-16 hockey season.
In the meantime, the Canmore Eagles goaltending plans were in a state of disarray as projected starter Clarke Flegel was released after one game and projected back-up Hunter Virostek was sent back to his Midget team.
Enter Bontorin and Gilchrist.
Since their arrival in Canmore, Bontorin has posted a record of 7-3-1, and Gilchrist has posted an almost identical record of 8-3-1. Both goalies have claimed Alberta Junior Hockey League “Goaltender of the Week” awards with Gilchrist winning for the week of Sept. 14-20 and Bontorin for the week of Nov. 2-8.
“Our record (15-7-2) certainly wouldn’t be what it is without these two goalies,” said Eagles Assistant GM and Coach Jeremy Reich. “We dodged a big bullet when we found these two guys. We are a young team and sometimes we struggle a bit during a game, but these two goalies have been there for us, made some big stops at key times, and given us a chance to come back and earn some victories. It’s a remarkable situation as both goalies are very competitive and they push each other to be better. They both practice hard and that makes our practice time much more effective. It doesn’t matter who gets the start on game day, the entire team believes in both of them. Our team can play a more aggressive style of game because they have faith in the goaltenders.”
For Bontorin, a 19-year-old Springbank native, his time in Canmore has been more than enjoyable.
“I am very thankful for the opportunity that the Eagles have given me,” said Bontorin, who played in Austria last season on an Under 20 team and at the Pursuit of Excellence College in Kelowna the previous year. “My goal is to earn an NCAA scholarship, so the AJHL is where I want to be. Canmore is close to home, so I couldn’t be happier to land a spot here. Gilly and I get along very well, we push each other hard, and no one feels the stress of being the undisputed #1. It’s been a great experience so far.”
For Gilchrist, who signed a contract with the WHL Thunderbirds in February of 2015, the ultimate goal is to make it back to the Western Hockey League.
“The Thunderbirds went out and traded for a veteran goaltender last summer, so I kind of knew that it might be tough to crack the lineup this season and that I would have to find another place to play,” said Gilchrist, who is now ineligible to go the NCAA route due to his WHL signing. “ I didn’t want to go back to Midget, so playing in the AJHL is a great option for me. It’s certainly a step-up from Midget AAA, but so far, so good. I’m only 17, so if I play well here, hopefully I’ll get another shot at the WHL. If I can play well and help the Eagles succeed, it’s a win-win for both sides.”