Editors Note: this post was written by Evan Moyse, NAHL
I had first learned to ice skate at Naga-Waukee Ice Arena in Delafield, Wisconsin.
“Go slow and steady, you’re going to hurt yourself”
My grandmother had taken me ice skating with my little brother for the first time when I was 9 years old. He and I were racing around as fast as we could and falling all over, our grandma was in the corner of the rink and she just kept saying, “Go slow and steady, you’re going to hurt yourself”. Little did she know she had just helped me discover a sport I would grow to love.
Fast forward 9 years to the summer of 2014, at this point I had decided that rather than play my last year of major midget I would move up and play Junior.
The only problem was I didn’t know where, I had skated with a team in the NAHL, and had some interest from a few NA3HL teams but nothing was concrete. After I was passed over in the NAHL draft I had started to feel some pressure and I was concerned I wouldn’t ever make it to where I wanted to be.
Then, the day of he NA3HL draft I got a call from Tom McDermott, who was the coach of the Wisconsin Whalers telling me he was going to draft me.
For the rest of the summer I worked as hard as I could every day doing my best to be ready to go into Wisconsin and log as many minutes as I could, some days I would be on the ice as long 5 hours. My friends and I would search for ice anywhere, most of the time we would get off the ice at one rink and rush to get undressed and make it on time for the next skate.
We were always determined to never get out worked by anyone, and we had fun grinding it out everyday getting better little by little, slowly and steadily.
When I had got to Wisconsin I was extremely nervous, mentally and physically I was still a kid and being on a team with people who were a few years older than me was a big transition.
I spent a majority of my first few practices trying to get use to the speed of everything, in juniors everything happens a little quicker even when you’re transitioning from midgets to the tier 3 level.
A person who was instrumental in helping me get used to all the changes happening around me was Larry Clemens, Wisconsin’s goalie coach. I’d normally get to see Larry once or twice a week always at 7am, and anyone who lives in Wisconsin will tell you being up at 7am in the middle of a Wisconsin winter is far from fun, but it was easy for me to get up the days I knew I had a lesson with him.
“Other days would be 2 hours of him scoring on me non stop”
Some days we’d be on the ice 45 minutes and do a few simple drills to get my confidence up, other days would be 2 hours of him scoring on me non stop, and there was always the occasional “power hour” which was an hour of non stop movement. Whatever the case, he always knew what I needed, got the best out of me, and was a huge part of getting me where I needed to be to move on.
My Year in the NA3 was a big development year for me not only as a goaltender but also as a person. Looking back, playing there was crucial for me and it played a big role in getting me to where I am today.
After the season ended my focus switched to getting better for next year and where I was going to end up. I spent a few weeks in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin working with Larry Clemens and Tyler Lewis. Training with them and getting to work alongside guys like Chris Truehl and Chris Nell was awesome, they were all great role models for me, I got better every time I was there, and I made a lot of great friendships with the people in the “HPG family”.
Over the course of the summer I would try out and be cut by one USHL team, two NAHL teams, two CCHL teams, and two teams in the OJHL.
The farthest I got was with the Kanata Lasers in the CCHL who had noticed me at another team in their leagues camp and invited me to play preseason with them.
“In juniors when you get called into the coaches office you’re either going to get bad news or good news and very rarely is it somewhere in between”
After two preseason games against I was called into the coaches office for a meeting with the GM and coaching staff, in juniors when you get called into the coaches office you’re either going to get bad news or good news and very rarely is it somewhere in between.
They had decided to send me home, they didn’t have any import spots left to use on me being an American and they had plenty of other goalies to choose from at training camp. The last thing the head coach, Tony Iob, had said to me before I had walked out of the room was, “Drive slow, we might be calling you back quicker than you think.”
“Drive slow, we might be calling you back quicker than you think.”
In the mean time it was back to Wisconsin to get back to work, and in the words of my grandmother my journey was turning out to be a slow and steady one.
I came back to Wisconsin with no real confidence in myself, being cut from 7 teams in one summer seems to have that affect on people.
Either way I still had a jersey on my back and I still had a chance, I was getting better and I knew I was going to play a lot of games. I knew if I played well and just stuck to the process eventually something good would come my way.
And I turned out being right. After my first few weekends in Wisconsin and a series of games in Minnesota I was traded to Kanata which was awesome for me with the CCHL being a big step up from the NA3HL.
After we had got home from Minnesota I woke up the next day went to the rink signed some papers for Hockey Canada and hopped in my car for a 16 hour road trip up to Kanata.
The Lasers used to be one of the most prestigious franchises in the CCHL, they have 6 alumni who went on to win Stanley Cups including Jimmy Howard and Patrick Sharp. Recently they have been struggling, the year I was there we went 7-54-1 including a losing streak that lasted a little over 30 games. This was by far the toughest season of hockey I had ever played, on and off the ice nothing went my way.
To start my time in Kanata as I was driving to move into my new billet house and my drive ended up being finished when my car was totaled half way there.
For the next month I was driving around in a KIA Soul I had to rent until my parents had time to get me a new car up to Kanata. Obviously, the boys and I had gotten a lot of laughs out of the soul as my hamster friends in the commercials were also big fans of it.
“It wasn’t rare for the shot counter to end up in the 50’s or 60’s at the end of the night”
On the ice it was tough to keep pushing every night, it wasn’t rare for the shot counter to end up in the 50’s or 60’s at the end of the night. As easy as it would’ve been to give up, I had not stopped working to get better.
I was very fortunate that Kanata had a Goalie coach who was easy to work with and confide in about whatever problems I had. Andrew Cobham or “Cobsy” as everyone would call him worked as Kanata’s goalie coach and was the person who had recruited me.
We would skate every Tuesday at 6 am which resulted in these sessions being dubbed “The Breakfast Club,” he would also print out monthly stat sheets for my partner and I so we knew where we were getting beat and what we needed to focus on, aside from being a coach his door was always open for us wether it was for advice or to just come over for some Football on Sundays.
On November 20th after a game I had received a text from my dad which told me to call him when I got back to my billets, I called him and he told me my grandmother had passed away.
“My grandmother had passed away.”
This was incredibly tough on me as we had a very special bond. Our bond which was built around hockey is something I will cherish forever, she introduced me to it, she would come to almost all of my games in Wisconsin when I played there, and she’d always have a home cooked meal ready for my friends and I on off days since she was only an hour away from Madison.
6 days later I had one of my best games in Katana, which ended up being an overtime loss but, it turned out being the closest I would come to winning a game in a Laser uniform.
Right when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, over my christmas break I was diagnosed with an internal staph infection and it ended my season early.
The treatment involved a procedure where they cleaned the inside of my knee out as well as daily antibiotic infusions for a month after.
When all of the treatment was over the doctors had told me I could not play for the rest of the year because they were scared the infection would flare up if I rushed back.
I went back to Ottawa anyway, but not to play. I went back to be there for my team mates. Obviously, a season like we had wears on you mentally and I felt like being there for the boys would be more productive than sitting at home.
Now that another season had come and gone my focus was now not only on where I was going to be next year but also, getting back to 100 percent so I would be ready when the new season came around.
As soon as the doctors had cleared me to begin skating again I drove up to Wisconsin to work on getting back to where I needed to be to compete wherever I ended up.
Being back on the ice was an unbelievable feeling, when you are restricted to watching for that long it really makes you realize how much you love the game. Being there and being able to play made any day a good day, no matter how bad I had played.
Now that I was getting back to 100 percent I was faced with the decision of playing my last year of junior or going to college a year early.
Over the summer I had been on three college visits 1 at the division one level and 2 at the division three level.
My mentor, Mike Pilon, who has been a tremendous help to me since I met him in Kanata, and I had decided that I shouldn’t rush into college unless it’s the perfect fit for me.
After seeing what each respective school had to offer I had come to the decision none of them were exactly what I had in mind for my perfect college experience. The only problem with that was the time I spent exploring my college options had given me a late jump on figuring out where I was going to play at the junior level.
When I went to Kanata’s camp I had a pretty good showing, especially for it being my first time playing at a high level in a long time.
Nevertheless, during my exit interview they had informed me that they would be trading me because they were looking to build for the future and a 20 year old isn’t very good for that.
“They had informed me that they would be trading me because they were looking to build for the future and a 20 year old isn’t very good for that.”
Thankfully, the way the rule works is they only had my rights within Canadian leagues so I was free to try and make a team under the USA Hockey umbrella.
In the short amount of time I had left over the summer I attended 3 NAHL camps at the first 2 camps I was cut before the all-star game.
Then, at the second camp I was the last goalie cut but, a week later, I had got a call from them that they had changed their mind and they had offered me a spot.
I had gotten a few calls from some other Canadian Tier 2 teams that were thinking about trading for me and some USPHL Premier teams but at that point they were all too late, as the coaches from the Wichita Falls in the NAHL had called and offered me a spot in their training camp (which I had accepted).
I had not attended a tryout with them but, they had heard enough about me from the right people they were willing to give me an opportunity to come in and battle for a spot. There was nothing set in stone that I would make team but, everyone that I had called for advice had confidence that I would go in and do just fine battling for a spot.
I was lucky enough to not only make the team but, earn the starting job out of camp stringing together quite a few starts.
On top of getting a lot of starts here, being able to work with Thomas Speer, our goalie coach, is just another blessing I’ve received. Its obvious that he truly does care about his guys and I’m very lucky to have a guy like him around as a coach in my last year of junior.
All in all the NAHL is awesome spot to be, you get to play a high level of hockey in a lot of cool arenas in front of a lot of people, the travel is a grind but when you embrace it, it becomes one of the best parts of the journey.
For me personally the best part about playing in the NAHL especially the South division is thinking about all of the goalies that have come through the league.
Knowing guys like Connor Hellebuyck, Anthony Stolarz, and Evan Cowley stood in the same crease you do night after night is a really cool to think about.
“Recently, I was lucky enough to make my college commitment to Ohio State University”
Recently, I was lucky enough to make my college commitment to Ohio State University. I couldn’t be happier about it, Ohio State has been my dream school for as long as I can remember the education, the coaching, the atmosphere, and obviously the athletics are all world class and I’m blessed to be a part of it.
“I’m blessed to be a part of it”
I’m not too good at this whole writing thing so I wasn’t really sure how I was going to end this, but after thinking about it I figured the best way to wrap it up would be a few pieces of advice for the young goalie trying to find his way.
The first thing I’d have for them is play your game and trust the process, obviously it’s a lot easier said than done but, the quicker you can learn to just be you and control what you can control the quicker you’re going to come into your own.
Another thing I would share is do the little things, be the first guy on and the last guy off, find that extra gear, mentally refusing to be out worked will take you where you want to be.
Another valuable piece of advice I would pass along is build relationships wether your teammates, coaches, billets, rink guys, whoever you’re going to make friendships in junior that you are going to cherish forever.
“The last piece of advice I think every goalie needs to hear is simple, never give up”
The last piece of advice I think every goalie needs to hear is simple, never give up, I’ve written “NGU” on my sticks since the first time I was cut from a NAHL team.
It has become my motto ever since, over the course of my junior career I was cut 13 times, played in a league no one thought I would make it out of, and I turned out just fine.
“Never get discouraged enjoy the ride and take it slow and steady.”