Oiler goalie among Alberta's Jr. A elite
Hockey: Jared D'Amico earns Top Goalie Award nomination
By: By Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 20, 2013 06:00 am
It’s the type of progression in goal the rest of the league just had to notice.
Okotoks Oilers netminder Jared D’Amico was named a finalist for the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s (AJHL) Top Goaltender Award in recognition of a sensational sophomore campaign for the Chestermere native.
“It’s an honour and I’m excited. It’s always nice, but my ultimate goal is to play as many games as possible and help the team out as much as possible,” said D’Amico Friday from the bowels of Pason Centennial Arena. “That means getting to the playoffs and winning a championship.”
Quick to deflect praise to his teammates, D’Amico noted the play of his defencemen has as much to do with the league recognition as any other factor.
“Last year we had the big strong guys that would clear out the net presence, but our defence corps has played phenomenal,” he said. “Getting that nomination is not just me.”
Following a season as the understudy to Michael Tadjdeh, D’Amico has taken the reins of the starting job and run with them. In his first season as the starting goalie D’Amico has posted gaudy numbers. He sits fourth in wins with 20, is fourth in goals against average (2.23), and in shutouts with three. At .926, he owns the league’s third best save percentage.
“I think my season has gone really well. I’m really happy with my play,” he said. “With the exception of a couple games I think I’ve been pretty solid in there.”
D’Amico is chomping at the bit to see post-season action in between the pipes this year after being resigned to the bench during the Oilers’ playoff exit in the second round last season.
“I’m very excited for that and I try not to look at it as playoff games with all that pressure,” he said. “I’ll just go in there like it’s a regular game and do the best I can.”
Oilers head coach and general manager James Poole witnessed the gradual progression of D’Amico from a fresh-faced rookie last year to the elite goalie he is today.
“His rebound control has hugely improved from his rookie season,” Poole said. “If he had a weak goal against him last year it could snowball. Whereas this year he has the mental toughness to put that goal behind him and re-focus.”
The Holy Trinity Academy graduate ascribed his improvement to finding comfort with the pace of Junior A hockey and playing regularly.
“I’m used to the speed of the play, the speed of the puck and it definitely helps when you’re playing games in a row and can get into a rhythm,” D’Amico said. “That’s probably the biggest thing.”
Being challenged also helped D’Amico pick up his game.
The 19-year-old goalie struggled out of the gate during the pre-season before picking up his play when 20-year-old Western Hockey League veteran Keith Hamilton was added to the Oilers’ crease in late October.
“We were a little hard on him, held him out a couple games, but he responded the right way,” Poole said of D’Amico. “When we brought in the 20-year-old goaltender, I’m sure that rubbed him the wrong way and he thought his number-one job was gone, but he’s responded extremely well to that challenge as well.”
The Oilers face an enviable dilemma in goal with two number-one quality starters on the roster and just one goal to tend. D’Amico has seen most of the action this season, but Hamilton has proven his worth when called upon, posting 11 wins and a miniscule 2.18 goals against average. The Kelowna native also tended the Oilers goal to the team’s most impressive win of the season, a triumph over Brooks in early February.
“They both deserve to be number one guys and probably haven’t gotten the amount of games they deserve,” Poole said. “Both guys have pushed each other really hard this year so it’s been a good competition between both of them.”
The impressive season has garnered D’Amico interest from south of the border as well. Poole said NCAA scouts are enquiring more and more about the netminder and are largely over the initial concerns with D’Amico’s five-foot-nine stature.
“If he keeps doing what he’s doing that’s going to take care of itself,” Poole said of a college scholarship.
For the Top Goaltender Award D’Amico is up against Canmore Eagles tender Ty Swabb, Nick Kulmanovsky of the Grande Prairie Storm and Drayton Valley Thunder netminder Marc Olivier-Daigle.
Two finalists from each division were selected by the coaches and managers from the North and South. AJHL managers from both divisions will cast their ballot to choose a winner immediately following the culmination of regular season play.
“I actually think he has a real good chance of winning it,” Poole said. “There’s been some goalies that have good numbers throughout the league, but I think Jared has been consistent all year long, has always been near that two goals against average.”
As the last line of defence for a young Oilers unit featuring eight rookies, D’Amico has been the backbone of the team’s success in 2012-13.
“He’s given us a chance to win every night,” Poole said. “If you’re looking at our most valuable part of our team it’s been our goaltending and Jared has got the lion’s share of the action.”
For the full list of AJHL award finalists go to www.ajhl.ca.