Rookie goalie understands being an understudy
IceDogs rookie netminder Christian Sbaraglia. PHOTO BY: VIVID EYE PHOTOGRAPHY
Christian Sbaraglia was thinking long term when he decided to join the Niagara IceDogs.
The 17-year-old netminder signed on with the IceDogs in October after being selected in the sixth round, 106th overall, of the 2017 OHL Priority Selection from the Vaughan Kings.
Sbaraglia began the season with Omaha of the United States Hockey League, and despite the fact he had a full scholarship locked up at Penn State, chose to sign with the IceDogs.
“I just figured how could you not turn something down like Niagara,” said Sbaraglia, who hails from Mississauga. “It’s an hour away from home and it has some the best coaching staff I’ve even seen in junior so it was no-brainer for me to come here.”
The IceDogs love Sbaraglia’s makeup and talent and wanted to lock him up sooner rather than later.
“There’s huge potential there,” IceDogs coach Billy Burke said. “We really believe he will be the next starting goalie for us.
“He has very good rebound control and a very good glove hand to track things.”
Sbaraglia has seen limited duty since joining Niagara appearing in only four games, but that was part of the plan with Stephen Dhillon firmly ensconced as the No. 1 netminder.
“We felt being here and practising every day and being around the guys would be more beneficial for him rather than going back to junior B,” Burke said.
Sbaraglia admits it is unusual to go long stretches without playing, but he understands the situation.
“It’s definitely a little different at first, but you just can’t come into junior and expect to play right away,” he said. “There are guys with more rank and more experience. You just have to use it as a learning experience and hopefully for the future I won’t be third string and I can help the team out a little bit.”
Sbaraglia did see some action last week when he started and defeated the Kingston Frontenacs. Overall the young netminder is 2-2 with a 2.96 goals-against average and .891 save percentage.
“We were hoping Sbrags would play well against Kingston and he did,” Burke said. “I don’t know for sure how many more games he’ll get down the stretch but he’s proven he’s an OHL goalie already.
“If something happens and he moves up into the No. 2 or No. 1 spot, then we feel we have a strong, young goalie.”
Sbaraglia is using the opportunity to take in as much as he can of the OHL experience.
“I’m just trying to sink it all in,” he said. “During the game, it goes by pretty fast but after the game you think about it and I’m pretty happy with how it’s gone so far.
“I’m facing NHL draft picks in practice every day and picking up releases. I think it’s more off the ice: Watching the older guys and picking up their habits.”
Sbaraglia feels this season, regardless of how much or little action he sees, will put him in good shape to contend for more playing time next year.
“I think it’s going to be huge. I’ve already got a year here and I’ve developed and feel much more comfortable and know what to expect.”
The IceDogs, 32-11,7-2, are home to Mississauga Thursday before travelling to Sault Ste. Marie Saturday and Sudbury Sunday.
Ice cubes: Defenceman Jacob Paquette took part in practice Tuesday with a non-contact jersey and is reported to be day to day . . . Burke said the IceDogs are “actively looking to hire someone else and hopefully we can have something done in the next couple of days” in the wake of goaltender coach Ryan Ludzik’s resignation for personal reasons.
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