World Juniors, Information
The St. Louis Blues choose wasn’t at Canada’s summer season camp, however he earned his method onto the squad and now he is their starter because the nationwide crew takes on archrival Russia within the gold-medal gameJoel Hofer|Peter KovalevTASS through Getty ImagesOSTRAVA, Czech Republic – When Canada was in Michigan for the World Junior Summer season Showcase this previous August, Joel Hofer was coaching in Winnipeg. The St. Louis Blues netminder was not one of many 5 goaltenders chosen to attend the large occasion, however now Hofer has the nationwide crew within the gold-medal recreation right here on the world juniors. It’s all fairly unimaginable for the 19-year-old.
“It’s unbelievable,” he stated. “Clearly I wasn’t invited to the showcase and this was a purpose of mine, like a whole lot of different guys. It’s an honor to be right here, not to mention because the starter.”
Not one of the netminders Canada delivered to Michigan have performed in Ostrava, with Olivier Rodrigue taking up third-string duties whereas one other non-invitee, Nico Daws, began the primary two video games of the world juniors. Coach Dale Hunter laughed after I requested him why Canada didn’t learn about Hofer in the summertime.
“He’s had a terrific yr out West,” Hunter stated. “It’s a type of issues the place he has stepped it up. That’s what’s nice about hockey; you by no means know.”
And to be truthful, Hofer’s ascent actually hit one other degree this fall. Taking part in in his first full season with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks after splitting 2018-19 between Portland and Swift Present, Hofer has been on hearth, registering a league-leading 1.81 goals-against common and a sturdy .937 save proportion, placing him second behind Everett’s Dustin Wolf. Hofer’s 20 wins can be good for first, tied with Dylan Garand of Kamloops.
“We’ve acquired a reasonably good crew there,” Hofer stated. “We’re younger, however we’re fairly expert and we’ve got ‘D’ corps.”
Proper now he’s acquired a reasonably good crew in entrance of him too. Canada blitzed Finland within the first interval of the semi-final, ringing off two targets within the first three minutes and main Four-Zero after 20 minutes.
“We all know how the Finns can shut you down, just like the USA recreation,” Hunter stated. “So we stated ‘let’s be good early and attempt to get pucks in, hold it easy.’ And we cycled the puck effectively. We broke out effectively and created some alternatives.”
Now, you would be snarky and level out that Canada didn’t want Hofer to be glorious in what turned out to be a 5-Zero win, however he made a whole lot of good saves alongside the best way, together with two prime possibilities from Colorado choose Sampo Ranta and a pleasant rush by Ottawa first-rounder Lassi Thomson. Most significantly, he’s giving the boys in entrance of him confidence – which they’ll want of their rematch with Russia, the crew that dismantled them within the spherical robin with Daws because the starter. Defenseman Ty Smith is a star for the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs, so he is aware of his divisional rival effectively.
“He’s a giant body, height-wise,” Smith stated of the 6-foot-5 Hofer. “He’s calm within the web, very assured in his play and he’s acquired the power to make nice saves. He’s good positionally, as effectively. I don’t know a lot about goalies, however he’s powerful to beat after we play Portland, that’s for positive.”
After all, as calm and quiet as Hofer might be in Canada’s dressing room, he’s nonetheless a young person going through what he known as the most important recreation of his life. Fortunately, he has found the wonders of melatonin, a pure complement that aids sleep (which is nice while you’ve travelled midway throughout the globe).
“When it’s night time and you’ll’t sleep, it’s the worst,” he stated. “Your thoughts is racing, there’s social media and all that stuff, so it’s good to pop a melatonin and also you’re lights-out.”
With Russia utilizing each goalies in its semi-final time beyond regulation win in opposition to Sweden, goaltending will definitely be a storyline within the gold-medal recreation. Canada might not have recognized who their man was this summer season, nevertheless it’s change into fairly clear who their hero is now.
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Tags: prospects, world junior championship, st. louis bluesConnect: In regards to the AuthorRyan KennedyRyan Kennedy is the affiliate senior author and draft/prospect professional at The Hockey Information. He has been with the publication since 2005 and in that span, Don Cherry, Lil Jon and The Rock have all known as his home. He lives in Toronto together with his spouse and youngsters the place he listens to loud music and collects NCAA pennants.