Warriors boast unprecedented goaltending depth

Matthew Gourlie
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One thing became clear at Moose Jaw Warriors training camp.

Mitchell Adamyk, goalie for Team Black deflects the puck before Colton McCarthy and Josh Uhrich of Team White can get to the rebound during the Moose Jaw Warriors intrasquad game on Sunday afternoon at Mosaic Place.

For the first time in team history they have goaltending depth.

All four goaltenders the Warriors brought to main camp looked like they have WHL careers in their future. Justin Paulic is the veteran of the bunch, but considering three of those goalies — Zach Sawchenko, Brody Willms and Mitchell Adamyk — are 15 or 16 years old, that presents a nice problem for the Warriors in the future.

"My first year here I got the job about 10 days before training camp started and we traded for a 20-year-old goaltender," said Warriors general manager Alan Millar. "The next year we didn't have any goalies and we traded for a 19-year-old goaltender. I looked back at the history of the team and there have been a lot of trades in September for a 19 and 20 year old goaltenders. From that point — from a management, coaching, scouting and player development philosophy — we decided that we have to be listing, drafting and developing our own players. It's too important of a position.

"We signed (Daniel) Wapple and Paulic at 17. We got them in the lineup. We drafted Sawchenko high. You can say we're geniuses or you can say we're lucky drafting Willms in the eighth round, but I'll give the credit to our scouting staff. It was a great list by Robert (Maclachlan) and Rod Huff on Adamyk. You need depth in that area and you need great goaltending to win."

Paulic, born in 95, is heading into his third season with the team, while Sawchenko, a 97, just backstopped Canada to an under-18 Hlinka Memorial Cup gold medal. Willms, a 98, attended two Hockey Canada camps this summer, while fellow 98 Adamyk may have been the best goalie of the bunch over the course of main camp.

"The two young goaltenders … Willms is what he is and Adamyk has come in here and he's raw, but there's lot of potential there," said Millar.

Adamyk robbed Brayden Point twice in the first scrimmage of the weekend — once in overtime — from point blank range to announce his presence at camp.

"In the first game I was a little nervous, but since then my confidence has kept going up," said Adamyk, a six-foot-two listed goalie from Winnipeg. "I've gotten a lot of confidence out of this weekend."

Adamyk only played in the Winnipeg City Midget league a year ago, but is hoping to play midget AAA with the Winnipeg Thrashers or in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League with the Neepawa Natives.

Like Sawchenko, Adamyk has a December birthday. He and Willms are the same age in a hockey sense, while Sawchenko is a year older. Given the other's pedigree of already having caught the eye of Hockey Canada, Adamyk may be facing long odds, but he is focused on continuing to get better.

"It pushes me to work harder and try to be the best," he said of the competition. "I feel like I can (play in the league). I have that confidence."

Adamyk feels the mental side of his game has gotten stronger since last season. He stopped 12 of the 13 shots he faced in the Black-White intrasquad game Sunday night.

The Warriors goaltending wasn't a strength last season as Paulic struggled and a very young Sawchenko got better each month. Millar has every confidence in their options this season especially as main camp drew to a close Sunday.

"I think everybody acknowledges that Justin Paulic wasn't at his best a year ago. It was an up-and-down year for him, but it certainly looks like he's come in here to prove that last year was a bit of a blip on the screen and he's making the statement that he's back. He's been really good in the first few days of camp."

Paulic stopped all 30 shots he faced Sunday in just over 30 minutes of work. Willms allowed two goals on 19 shots and Sawchenko allowed two goals from 20 shots.

Organizations: Manitoba Junior Hockey League

Geographic location: Canada, Winnipeg, Neepawa

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