Pet­ten a nat­u­ral be­tween the pipes

Young goalie looks to im­prove with ban­tam Ice

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER nmercer@cb­n­com­

The life of a goal­tender was al­ways in the cards for Port de Grave’s Ri­ley Pet­ten.

From the age of three — when he could com­pre­hend the game — he’d spend hours in front of the fam­ily tele­vi­sion set with his gear strapped on. Stand­ing in the clas­sic goalie ready po­si­tion. Ev­ery time a shot was sent to­wards the goal, he would fire out his left leg or right arm in an at­tempt to stop the puck.

Ri­ley mim­icked what­ever move­ment that goal­tender on the screen was per­form­ing. Later, he would cheer for the goal­tenders in­stead of the teams play­ing. It only made sense that when it was time for him to sign up for his first mi­nor hockey sea­son, Ri­ley would im­me­di­ately jump be­tween the pipes for what­ever team he was play­ing for.

This nat­u­ral affin­ity for the po­si­tion has blos­somed for the 14-year-old since be­gin­ning his hockey ca­reer with the Bay Arena Rovers and now with the Tri Pen AAA ban­tam Ice.

Those who have watched Ri­ley around the rink say he has a nat­u­ral ease about him when he is in goal. He moves like he was born with an affin­ity for the po­si­tion. Be­ing square to the puck, mov­ing side-to-side and chal­leng­ing shoot­ers all came eas­ily to the young­ster.

“Right from the start, he took to the po­si­tion,” said mother Vanessa.

She re­mem­bers an in­ter­na­tional AAA tour­na­ment held in Philadel­phia where former pro Jim Carey made men­tion of her son’s ex­cep­tional tal­ent. Ri­ley was eight at the time.

“I just feel my way through the po­si­tion,” said Ri­ley. “I just do what feels right.”

He de­scribes him­self as a hy­brid goal­tender and likens some of the way he moves to Los An­ge­les King Jonathan Quick.

“I think I have my own style,” he said.

He cred­its coaches like Nel­son Ben­nett and Trevor Dixon with help­ing him progress as a goal­tender. Head in the game Goal­tenders need to have a short mem­ory. If they let in a goal, es­pe­cially a bad one, they need to be able to shake it off and fo­cus on the next play.

Ri­ley feels like this is an im­por­tant part of his game. He lets the bad ones roll off his back.

“Goalies need to be able to re­group af­ter a goal,” he said. “It helps me out a nice bit, be­ing able to let things go.”

Goal­tenders are also crea­tures driven by con­fi­dence. Mak­ing a cou­ple of stops at the be­gin­ning of games or dur­ing a crit­i­cal junc­ture goes a long way to help­ing them get through other mo­ments in the con­test.

“I get a lot of con­fi­dence from a big save,” said Ri­ley. “It helps to steal a game ev­ery now and then.” Quack, quack, quack Grow­ing up, there were times when the Bay Arena dress­ing room might have been con­fused for the one oc­cu­pied by Dis­ney’s The Mighty Ducks.

In big games, the team could be heard quack­ing in an ef­fort to fire up their goal­tender, or it could be their goal­tender look­ing to get his team amped with a set of pe­cu­liar lips.

It all goes back to the off­beat nick­name for Ri­ley. They call him Duck.

“Ri­ley would make th­ese duck lips in the dress­ing room to sort of get the team go­ing,” said Vanessa. “Then, the team would start quack­ing to get Ri­ley on his game.”

That prac­tice of quack­ing has gone away in re­cent years, but Ri­ley is still re­ferred to as duck. It’s a name he wears with pride as he has the face of a duck em­bla­zoned on his goalie mask. A soli­tary man There are points when a goal­tender is on an is­land. That may also ap­ply to Ri­ley when he gets ready for a hockey game.

On game day, he is the def­i­ni­tion of a soli­tary man. He likes to eat pasta and pre­pare for the game by him­self. Putting him­self on an is­land, Ri­ley gets ready men­tally and phys­i­cally be­fore head­ing to the dress­ing room.

“I like to sit back and lis­ten to mu­sic,” he said.

With the harsh tones of hard rock and me­tal mu­sic cours­ing through his head­phones, Ri­ley starts imag­in­ing some of the dif­fer­ent saves he may have to make dur­ing the game.

“I like to imag­ine the puck and imag­ine track­ing the puck,” he said. “I find it keeps me fo­cused.”

“I like to imag­ine the puck and imag­ine track­ing the puck. I find it keeps me fo­cused.” Ri­ley Pet­ten


Port de Grave’s Ri­ley Pet­ten is a goal­tender with the Tri Pen AAA ban­tam Ice.

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