By Woodard, Dale on December 17, 2019.
Last season, Brayden Peters was used to shuttling from Lethbridge to Calgary and back.
Of course, that was mostly a product of his schedule as the goaltender for the Lethbridge midget AAA Hurricanes of the Alberta Midget Hockey League.
Still, there was another reason Calgary was calling. That reason was the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League – who drafted Peters in the fifth round and 95th overall in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft – who summoned the Taber goaltender for spot backup duty.
However, when the puck dropped on the 2019-20 season, Peters went up to Calgary and stayed there.
And when the Hitmen pulled into the Enmax Centre Saturday night for their first game of the year against the Lethbridge Hurricanes, there was the 17-year-old, newly full-time WHL goaltender in the Calgary crease with a contingent of family and friends from 20 minutes down the road in Taber as his cheering section.
“It was great,” said Peters. “When they said I was getting the start today, they told me (Friday), I was pumped for it and texted my parents probably 10 minutes after they told me and said that I was going to start. A bunch of my family came out. I saw a lot of them in the warmup down by the glass and up behind our bench. It’s just an awesome experience to be able to play in front of so many of your family and friends that have supported me up to this point in my career. It’s nice to have a good game for them.”
On this night, the Hurricanes emerged with a 3-0 win.
But Peters still turned in a hometown performance worthy of the third star, keeping Lethbridge off the scoresheet until the third period which included a dazzling glove save late in the second period off Hurricane Logan Barlage.
Peters made 26 saves on the night and is 4-6-1-0 on the season to go along with a 2.69 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage.
“It’s a great group of guys and a great coaching staff,” said Peters, who got his first WHL win last season in one of his two games with the Hitmen, a 6-2 win over the Swift Current Broncos Jan. 30 in Swift Current.
“I’m just loving the city. They’ve invited me in and taken me in right away. I knew the guys last year, but it’s getting used to this league now. After last year I got a taste of it, but never really got comfortable and got to sit with it. This year I’m figuring out the league and getting used to what the league has and how to play in it.”
This season, Peters has split the crease duties with second-year Hitmen goaltender Jack McNaughton.
Together, the duo have backstopped Calgary to a 16-10-3-1 record, good for the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
“He’s been amazing,” said Peters of McNaughton. “He had his rookie year last year as well at 17. This year, whenever there has been adversity or troubles, things not going well in practice or you had a bad game, he’s been right there for me and has always had my back no matter what is going on. We’ve hung out in the summer. He came down for goalie camps so we’ve developed a friendship, for sure.”
That said, both goalies want the ice time.
“Of course, you’re competing because you’re the only two goalies on the team,” said Peters. “But you’re also probably the best friends on that team because there are only two of you and you are the only two that know what each other is going through being in the net. Developing a friendship with him has been amazing. He’s a great guy.”
Peters and the Hitmen will be back at the Enmax Centre Dec. 27 at 7 p.m.
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