Dylan Myskiw – Photo by Brandi Pollock
Branden, MB (CKLQ) – “There is always someone that wants your job.”
That is the message that Brandon Wheat King’s Goalie Coach Tyler Plante is instilling into the minds of his goaltenders this week as training camp unfolds.
“That’s the thing you have to understand as a goalie,” said Plante. “There is always someone that is going to push you and who wants to take your position. When you take that mindset and know you have to better yourself on a daily basis to stay ahead of the competition that’s when you can achieve new heights in your game.”
The Wheat Kings will have plenty of competition in the crease over the next couple of weeks as 19-year-olds Jiri Patera and Dylan Myskiw battle with 17-year-old Ethan Kruger and 16-year-old Connor Ungar for ice time in the blue paint.
Myskiw took over the starters role late last season when Logan Thompson went down with an ankle injury. The Winnipeg native performed admirably and helped the Wheat Kings knock off the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first round and force a five-game series with the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
In 11 playoff games, Myskiw registered a 3.51 GAA and a .898 SVP.
“He (Myskiw) did a great job with us last year that’s no secret,” added Plante. “We were put in a tough position losing the starting goaltender, he answered the bell and did really well with his opportunity. He’s not the biggest guy but he presents himself big in the net. He’s very good on his feet and is a very coachable kid.”
Jiri Patera – Photo courtesy of The Gazette
While fans and teammates alike got to see Myskiw shine in his short time in the spotlight, the scouting report on the new import netminder is a bit of a secret. Czech born Jiri Patera appears to be on a similar path to that of former Wheat King rear-guard Ivan Provorov.
Patera spent last season with Cedar Rapids in the USHL and posted a 3.24 GAA and a .901 SVP, a stat line that earned him recognition from the NHL level. The 6’2″ netminder was chosen in the 6th round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft by the Vegas Golden Knights and quickly made an impression at the team’s development camp that followed.
While he may only get a few sessions on the ice in Brandon before returning to the desert for Golden Knights Rookie Camp, Plante likes what he’s seen so far.
“He likes to be aggressive and be out at the top of his crease,” added Plante. “He plays a little different style than we are used to seeing on a daily basis in North America. He likes to stay on his feet as much as possible and has a high compete level.”
While just entering his third season as a WHL Goalie Coach, Plante knows a thing or two about competition. A former 2nd-round draft pick of the Florida Panthers, Plante was regularly competing with the likes of Roberto Luongo, Jose Theodore, Scott Clemmensen and Jacob Markstrom.
“Even as the backup for the Brandon Wheat Kings, you have 30 guys in Midget AAA Hockey that want your job,” Plante added. “It’s a unique sport within the sport. You can’t walk around sulking about it. I played nine years of pro hockey and there wasn’t one year without adversity. Every one of these guys has to come to camp to compete for a job.”
BWK Goalie Coach Tyler Plante makes a save in a game between the Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators.
Meanwhile, 17-year-old Ethan Kruger hopes to earn a full-time spot with the Wheat Kings after a breakout year in his hometown of Sher-Wood Park.
The former 5th round Bantam Draft pick appeared in two pre-season games last year, earning his first WHL victory and returned to the club for the playoffs where he served in the role as backup to Dylan Myskiw.
After posting a .901 save percentage with the Sher-Wood Park Midget AAA Kings last season, he is hoping to make this trip to the Wheat City a permanent one.
Ethan Kruger – Photo by Brandi Pollock
“Ethan has a poise and a calmness to his game…He’s cool as a cucumber,” said Plante. “He has this professionalism in his game that has the ability to calm his teammates and make them feel comfortable that he’s going to make that save for them.”
While many fans are focused on the three-headed monster that lies in the Brandon goalmouth, the potential netminder of the future is quietly going about his business in the background.
16-year-old Connor Ungar played his way onto the Wheat Kings protected list last fall and continues to impress. In 18 games in the CSSHL (Northern Albert Elite 15’s), Ungar posted a 1.76 GAA and a .918 SVP. While he may not be ready just yet to make the jump to Major Junior hockey, he is one step closer to achieving that goal.
“When he came to camp last year he just kept pucks out of the net,” said Plante. “He just continues to keep pucks out of the net. Our mindset was with some work, Connor is going to be a real good goaltender and obviously, he has put the work in up to this point.”
Brandon Wheat Kings Main Camp officially kicks off on Friday morning at Westoba Place. The first on-ice session is at 8:30am. All sessions are open to the public.