Young goalies battle for roster spots

Matthew Gourlie
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Justin Paulic has done things backwards so far in his Western Hockey League career.

The Moose Jaw Warriors’ 16-year-old goalie has one career regular season start and two appearances in elimination games in the Eastern Conference finals to his credit.

Now as he tries to establish himself as the Warriors’ No. 1 starter, he isn’t getting ahead of himself.

“I want to work hard in practice and try to earn my spot. I want to make the team first and then go from there,” said Paulic who is a late-1995 birthday.

The battle for the two goaltending jobs for the Warriors this season is one of the more hotly contested in camp.

Spencer Tremblay was the back-up last year and posted a 7-4-2-1 record as a rookie. The Winnipeg product will turn 18 in a week and is looking to hold his roster spot.

Saskatoon’s Daniel Wapple, who was drafted four rounds and 82 picks ahead of Paulic, is looking to show that he is the Warriors’ goalie of the future.

The first job for the trio of young ’tenders is to crack the roster.

“I have to keep playing my game and not worry about what anybody else does. Hopefully it works out,” said Wapple who was the Sask. Midget AAA league’s first-team all-star goalie last year with the Saskatoon Blazers.

“You want to make the most of every chance you get. You can’t really take a day off.”

Both Paulic and Wapple were called up to the Warriors last season, but Paulic got the call at the end of the season. He started the Warriors final regular season game and earned the win.

Trailing 3-0 to Edmonton in the Eastern Conference final, Paulic was a shock starter for Game 4 and earned the win there before being on the losing end of Game 5.

Paulic’s play led to the Warriors dealing last year’s starting goalie, 20-year-old Luke Siemens, to Prince Albert in the off-season.

“It gave me great confidence,” said Paulic of his experience last year. “I kind of know what to expect coming into the pre-season and then hopefully the regular season.”

He admitted the whole experience was a lot to digest. To go from the high of the surprise start and then winning an elimination game to the low of having the season end two days later.

“It was disappointing,” he said of the Game 5 loss. “I knew that I probably should have had a couple of those goals and I wish I could have them back, but it’s over now. You have to learn from it and work harder after that.

“It was an awesome experience to look back on and hopefully I’ll be able to do it again some time.”

For Tremblay this is the second year in a row where he is coming to camp and having to fight for a spot. Even if his attitude is the same, he said he feels much more comfortable the second time around.

“I’m more confident I guess. I’m not as intimidated by everything,” said Tremblay. “I’m used to the shots, I guess. It’s been a bit easier.”

Tremblay still hasn’t seen any pre-season action beyond a disappointing outing in the intrasquad game.

“There was a little bump in the road in the Black-and-White game,” said Tremblay. “It was a different result from last year obviously — going from a shutout to giving up seven goals. It was just a bad game.

“I’m looking forward to the weekend and hopefully getting a game.”

The Warriors will travel to Brandon Friday before hosting the Wheat Kings Saturday (7 p.m., Mosaic Place).

Organizations: Western Hockey League, Saskatoon Blazers, Game 4

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Winnipeg, Saskatoon Sask. Edmonton Prince Albert Brandon

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