The old adage goes that goaltending is 50 percent of hockey; until you do not have good goaltending, and then it is 80 percent.
Whatever the truth of that saying, Notre Dame Junior ‘A’ bench boss Clint Mylymok has been able to sleep easy this season, knowing that in veteran Jacob Standen, and rookie Jack Ryan, he has it in spades.
According to Standen, that success as a tandem is deeply rooted in the excellent partnership the pair have invested in each other, despite their strong individual desire to be called on each night.
“[Being good friends despite competing for the same spot] is a bit of a weird balance, to be honest,” he said.
“But Jack has been awesome and absolutely is one of my closest friends on the team. He and I are constantly supporting each other, and I know it’s tough for him coming from midget where he was the top guy, but for him to be as supportive, and positive as he is, has been huge. When I don’t have to worry about my goalie partner hating on me, supporting me through every whistle and every play, it really helps me play better, and as I said, I could not ask for a better partner.”
Standen, 20, who hails from High River, AB, has been absolutely brilliant this season to date. A 6-foot, 190-pounder, the veteran of two Junior ‘A’ leagues in Ontario has flourished in the red and white of Notre Dame, sitting in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Top 3 in goals-against average, save percentage, and wins as of late November.
Ryan, 18, flowed to the Junior ‘A’ club after an outstanding season for the Hounds ‘AAA’ midgets last year. A native of Fredericton, NB, and an alumnus of Team New Brunswick at the 2015 Canada Winter Games, the 6-foot, 180-pounder has stepped in more than capably when given the chance.
The pair, who have an incredible combined 2.33 goals-against average as of late November, have given Hounds the distinction as the only club in the league to have only dressed two goaltenders all year so far.
“Like all organizations, we have had injuries in net in the past,” said Notre Dame goaltending coach Rusty Abbott.
“With these two guys and their appetites to work extremely hard in the gym, however, it really gives us peace of mind with regards to Jack and Jacob’s health, and their resilience to injury. They really take care of their bodies so consistently by taking advantage of the facilities that are really so accessible to the guys here.”
Abbott pointed out that the two goaltenders are similar in athleticism and stature, but use those factors in slightly different ways on the ice.
Standen is the aggressive one, utilizing his great mobility to attack what shooters are looking to do with his positioning. Ryan is the quieter, more calculated one, calmly reading the situation, and reacting with great efficiency of movement.
That said, they both know they can accomplish little without what has been as exceptional a corps of defenders as there is in the SJHL so far this year, one so deep that to date the staff has elected to play with 11 forwards and seven defenders on a consistent basis.
“This group is as good as it gets in junior hockey,” said Standen.
“So often it feels like a large percent of the shots we’re seeing are not really that difficult, and obviously there are times I need to make a big save, but that’s what every goalie wants and needs. But these guys are coming out, giving all they can to make sure we’re getting a win. They really do block shots, make plays, and it has been an absolute blast playing behind each of these guys.”
Like most rookies that come into junior hockey, Ryan was the big man on campus in minor hockey before making the jump. With five wins in six starts, and a goals-against average just over 2.53 by the end of November, however, the New Brunswicker feels he is in a good place for the present, and for the future.
“At the end of the day it has been a change, but I just look at it as an opportunity to learn from Jacob and to learn the game,” he said.
“He supports me and I support him; all I do is try to be supportive when he is playing, and he is my biggest fan when it’s my turn. Some of the best advice I’ve gotten from him is just that if I ever have any questions or want to talk about something, he is the first person I go to. We both know that we are playing a whole other sport than anybody else on the ice, it’s just us in the pipes, so I know he gets that.”
Talent, athleticism, competitiveness, and an exceptionally supportive relationship are what typifies the Notre Dame Junior ‘A’ goaltending tandem, but after winning and playing with respect, moving players up to higher levels of the game is at the heart of what the Hounds stand for.
For Standen and Ryan, they only need to look at the Wall of Honour at the Duncan McNeill Arena for examples of other goalies that have reached their hockey goals after wearing the ND on their chests.
“The one Hound alumni that really sticks to mind is obviously Curtis Joseph,” said Ryan.
“It is an absolute thrill to wear the same jersey and stand in the same crease as he did. As a Maritimer, I also have a really recent role model in (ex-Notre Dame Hound, Maritime Hockey Leaguer, and current Universoty of Minnesota-Duluth goaltender) Benjamin Patt. You see guys on the wall over there, and it makes you realize the type of potential that you can reach when you’re here, and it’s just great. This is the place you want to be if you want to continue your hockey dreams and play at the highest level, and we know that because it’s been done so many times before.”