Saskatoon StarPhoenix

‘I’ll be ready’: Injured Kotchorek set to play

Goaltender fancies chances at WCC

- DARREN ZARY dzary@postmedia.com Twitter.com/@DZfromtheS­P

All Taryn Kotchorek does is silence the critics.

He’s unheralded, undersized and often underestim­ated. Without any sort of midget AAA pedigree, Kotchorek keeps proving himself at the junior A level with the Battleford­s North Stars, who open up the Western Canada Cup against the host Penticton, B.C., Vees tonight.

“I think a lot of people were concerned with us winning the SJHL title, and we did that by sweeping,” said Kotchorek, who is listed at 5-foot-10 and 145 pounds, but looks even smaller.

“I think we have a pretty good chance in the Western Canada Cup.”

There’s people out there who didn’t think the Stars had the goaltendin­g to get it done.

Kotchorek — a hometown Battleford­s boy who made the jump to the Saskatchew­an Junior A Hockey League from the midget AA ranks — could care less what others think.

All he’s done is post a perfect 9-0 record through the playoffs and 2.05 goals-against average.

During the regular season, Kotchorek posted a 27-3-0-0 record and league-leading 1.61 G.A.A.

“It’s been funny when people ask, ‘Where did you play your midget?’” recounts Kotchorek. “I say I just played midget AA in Battleford and they go, ‘Oh, really?’ They’re pretty shocked.”

UNBELIEVAB­LE NUMBERS

All season, Kotchorek has shared the net with Saskatoon Blades prospect Joel Grzybowski, whose numbers included a 21-4-0-0 record and 1.61 G.A.A.

“Their numbers are unbelievab­le to put up, especially as two essentiall­y rookie playoff goalies,” says Stars assistant coach Braeden Johnson. “They carried us. We’ve had the benefit of having two great goalies.”

There’s a chance a recent injury could restrict Kotchorek’s playing time in Penticton, but he says he’ll be available to play.

“I’ll be ready,” he promised. “I’m just day-to-day. I’m pretty confident in us getting it done. It’s been 50-50 and I think it’s really helped us both. Our compete-level is through the roof. We help each other every day.”

Said Johnson: “We’re down one goalie but we’ve got a 1-A goalie so we’re good. Right now, it’s day by day, but we’re definitely looking to use both goalies.”

First-year North Stars head coach and GM Nate Bedford is confident in his goaltendin­g tandem. He didn’t see the need to go out and find a veteran 20-year-old goalie.

“You’re always going to look for a fault with our team or any team,” said Bedford. “Looking at toosmall-of-stature goalies is probably an old school way of finding a fault.

“If anybody watched them in practice or had a conversati­on with them, you might change your mind.”

Bedford believes Kotchorek will be ready to play in Penticton.

“I think, in my opinion, he can play for sure. And, in his opinion, he can play for sure,” Bedford said.

“Yeah, he’s nicked up a little bit, but at this time of the year, so are a lot of guys. His is just a little bit more. Lots of guys are going to be hurt on all the teams but a lot of them will still continue to play. We’re not worried about injuries right now. We’re a pretty healthy bunch.”

The Stars enter the tournament with a 48-9-1-0 record during the regular season and 12-0 mark so far in playoffs.

“I think it’ll be different seeing teams we’ve never played before,” Kotchorek said. “But I think as long as we’re physical with them and show them what we’ve got, we’ll be fine.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada