This article first appeared on HaltonHillsToday Jan. 24.
Going into the season, there was one position Kyle Brick wasn’t concerned about.
The Blind River Beavers’ coach and general manager had two goaltenders he was confident could help his team contend for the league title. And then his plan fell apart.
“We thought we had the position locked up,” he said. “We brought in our two goalies for the year, but then the player we thought would be our number one had a hip injury that put him out for the season. We were kind of scrambling.”
Georgetown’s Noah Tegelaar had his season mapped out too. The 17-year-old goalie had tried out for some local junior teams, but hadn’t managed to land a spot for the upcoming season.
He had been drafted by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in April’s Ontario Hockey League Under-18 draft, but the team had two returning netminders. Still, he went to their training camp to get some experience.
When camp ended, Tegelaar was planning to return to his under-18 team in Guelph. And then he got a call from Brick.
“We liked his compete level and his athleticism for his size,” said Brick, whose staff had seen Tegelaar at the Soo’s camp. “And you can’t teach size and he’s 6-foot-4.”
Tegelaar didn’t know much about Blind River other than he had driven through it with his parents on the way to Sault Ste. Marie. But it was a good opportunity.
The last-minute roster addition has produced spectacular results for both the team and the player.
Blind River sits atop the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League standings with a 32-9-0 record and is 12th in the Canadian Jr. A rankings. Tegelaar is a big part of that. He's currently riding a 14-game winning streak and is 21-2-0 on the season. He leads the league in almost every statistical category – wins, goals-against average (1.83), save percentage (.933) and shutouts (five).
With his goaltending partner suspended, Tegelaar carried the load in December and was named the league’s goalie of the month after winning all seven of his starts. And he’s been even better in January, allowing just four goals in five games.
“I’ve watched some of my games from last year and I see a huge difference,” Tegelaar said. “My speed, strength and athleticism. I can get across the net way easier. I’ve improved a lot more than I expected.”
Brick said that’s largely because Tegelaar has been willing to put in the work. Despite having a full high school course load, the rookie netminder has been doing extra sessions with the team’s goalie coach at least four times each week.
There was a time Tegelaar wondered if his sporting future lay in baseball. He played shortstop and outfield for the Halton Hills Eagles, but when the schedules for the two sports began to overlap a few years ago, he found himself choosing hockey.
He wasn’t selected in his OHL draft year, but after a strong U18 season in Guelph, the Greyhounds took him 23rd overall in the spring U18 draft.
“Honestly, I’m glad it worked out the way it did,” he said. “Rather than being picked in the last few rounds, going in the U18 draft, I know they are actually interested.”
And while Tegelaar feels ready to make the jump to the OHL next season, he has more immediate goals in mind.
“The end goal is to win the league and go to the Centennial Cup,” he said.
With Oakville hosting this year’s national Jr. A championship, it would be the perfect opportunity to show everyone back home how far he’s come in the last year.