Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Don't forget Gillies for USA goalie at Worlds

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor 

Yes, it's a cool thing that Flyers goalie prospect and Central Jersey native Anthony Stolarz was named to Team USA's preliminary roster for the upcoming World Junior Championships.

And yeah, it sucks that Union junior and defensive prospect Shayne Gostisbehere was left off the list for defensemen. 

That doesn't leave much time for meditation on a solid selection in the crease, the man who has backstopped the Providence Friars to the No. 4 spot in the country, Jon Gillies.

A sophomore out of Portland, ME, Gillis has participated in all but two of his resurgent program's (11-2-2) games this season, going 10-1-2 with a 1.81 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and three shutouts as the little school on the Rhode Island capital's North side sits atop all of Hockey East.

It comes on the heels of a break-out freshman campaign, where Gillies tied for the best in the nation with six whitewashes while racking up a 17-12-6 record, 2.08 GAA and .931 save efficiency. Providence's run was only stopped with a loss in the championship game against conference titlist and eventual Frozen Four finalist, UMass-Lowell.

Gillies earned Hockey East Rookie of the Year honors, a first-team, conference All-Star selection, and was also rewarded with the HCA National Division I Rookie of the Year. Add to that his share of HEA Goalie of the Month for November with counterpart Connor Hellebuyck of the River Hawks, and you're not just being sold a bill of goods.

One of his finest regular-season performances came last December 7 at Schneider Arena, when his 26 saves forged a 3-3 deadlock with Boston College, snapping a 12-game losing streak to the Eagles and preventing BC head coach Jerry York from achieving an NCAA record for most lifetime victories against a long-time rival.

He faced an average of 30.4 shots per contest last season and has been asked to fend off 32.2 per game this season. His 427 total saves in tops in the entire country and his nine career shutouts are already a school record.

That's the kind of grace under pressure you want from a goalie -- picked in the third round by Calgary in the 2012 draft -- tasked with having to take on the best of the rest of the world, with young legs and quick sticks skating at a lively pace for 60 minutes or more.

Plus, at just 19 years of age and standing a towering 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, he'll leave little open space in the net -- just as Stolarz will at 6-6 and 220. Even if he should be pulled out of position, his butterfly style, solid frame and ability to be confident in challenging shooters provides a formidable solution in the crease.

Notice also the young man's flexibility and economy of motion throughout most of these highlights. On the stop of BC's Brendan Silk, there's not many goaltenders with less size and height who could have successfully dived back into the path of that open chance.

If a spot in net must be one of the six cuts necessary before the Americans head to Malmo on Christmas, then BC frosh Thatcher Demko should be the one to feel the sting. If his first year in college is any indication, he'll make the choice tougher in 2015. For right now, Stolarz and Gillies should get the looks, with the potential Hobey Baker winner with the skating priest crest on his chest having the edge over the Canadian junior netminder who knows little about real pressure in goal.

Team USA, the defending champions, open up its tournament slate in Group A against the Czech Republic on December 26. 

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