The Chilliwack Chiefs are pinning their goalie hopes on Mark Sinclair in 2016-17. The 20 year old enters the season as the No. 1 guy, looking to fill the skates of departed starter Aidan Pelino.
The Hamilton native spent the last two years in the junior B ranks, leading the Caledonia Corvairs their third straight Sutherland Cup title as Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League champs.
Chilliwack Chiefs general manager/head coach Jason Tatarnic always looks for players with championship pedigrees, believing players who’ve ‘been there before’ have a lot to offer when playoff hockey dials up the intensity.
“I think it should carry over having gone through two long playoff runs with Caledonia,” Sinclair said. “Going that far into the season is tough mentally and physically, but it’s a lot of fun too and hopefully we can do that here.”
Sinclair heard from Tatarnic for the first time in June, shortly before Coach T acquired him for future considerations.
“He’d just talked to Caledonia and said he wanted me to come out here,” Sinclair recalled. “That was perfect because I’d been trying to come out to the BCHL already.
“It’s known as a good league and it was an easy choice.”
Sinclair isn’t new to junior A.
He made 59 starts to the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Hamilton Red Wings between 2013-15, but his numbers from that time aren’t great.
In 2013-14 he had a 3.76 goals-against average and .897 save percentage.
In 2014-15 he had a 4.10 GAA and .879 SP.
In his defence, he was playing behind a non-playoff team both years and his numbers with the Corvairs sparkle by comparison. His GAA was below two both years with Caledonia (1.17 and 1.78) and his SP was stellar (.939 and .924).
“The tough part coming back to this level is adjusting to the speed and how quick and skilled guys are,” he said. “But now matter what level you’re at, the goalie’s job doesn’t change.”
“Just stop the puck.”
Sinclair describes himself as an athletic and positionally sound stopper who likes to play the puck.
He might not be the second coming of Martin Brodeur, but he’ll come out of his net to help the D as often as Tatarnic will let him.
“You don’t want your D getting in a bad spot, so if I can come out, move the puck and keep them from taking a hit, I like to do that,” he said. “That, plus it’s really fun.”
Only two Chiefs goalies have ever scored a goal.Curtis Darling did it on purpose in 2003.
Mitch Gilliam did it by accident a couple years ago when he was the last player on the ice to touch the puck before it accidentally sailed into the opponent’s net.
Sinclair has never scored a goal, but it’s on his wish list.
“I had a lot of assists last year but I’ve never scored one,” Sinclair said. “I had a chance last year, but I passed the puck before I took a real good look.”
“My coach gave me a hard time when I didn’t shoot, but I just wanted to get the puck out so I banged it off the boards.”
“One of my teammates picked it up and buried it, so I got an assist out of it.”
“It’d be cool I think.”
Sinclair, who coaches and teammates describe as a quiet sort, will share the crease with Scott Jacobson, the talkative younger brother of ex-Chiefs netminder David Jacobson.
The two met each other for the first time earlier this week.
“He seems like a good guy and his brother lived with my billet when he was here,” Sinclair said. “So the first night I arrived he (Scott) came over and we hung out a bit.”
“We’re both wanting to play so we’ll battle each other in practice, but we also have to support each other because it’s all about the team winning.”
Like all Chiefs who don’t have one yet, Sinclair is looking for a division one NCAA scholarship.
He hasn’t had discussions with any schools yet, and hopes a fast start gets him on the scouting radar.
Chilliwack hosting the BCHL Showcase helps.
“It’s pretty special, unreal to have it here and be able to play at home with all those scouts in the crowd,” he said. “Hopefully it goes well.”
The Chiefs open their preseason schedule tonight in Langley.
Their first home appearance is Wednesday at 7 p.m. versus the Rivermen at Prospera Centre.