Petten a natural between the pipes
Young goalie looks to improve with bantam Ice
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.