Thunder goalie back for second year with hometown team
As he competes in his second season in the Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) for his hometown team the Airdrie Thunder, 18-year-old goaltender Kade Taplin says his game is improving.
“Last season was different for me, as I came into the league as a rookie and I didn’t really know any of the guys,” Taplin said. “This year, we do have some new faces here that makes things different, but we have a good chunk of guys back on defence so we already have that chemistry there on that part of the ice.”
In the stats department, it would seem to most people that Taplin is suffering from a little bit of a sophomore slump, as he currently has a 1-4-0 record and 4.19 goals against average heading into this weekend’s games.
However, Taplin said his overall game has become better since his rookie campaign, where he had a 5-5-1 record and a 3.64 goals against average.
“I feel like I have gotten faster out there, which came from working hard all summer in the gym,” Taplin said. “Right now, I’m just trying to build up some consistency in my game and continue to build on that going forward.”
Taplin also has the ability to come up with a highlight reel save when his team needs it the most, as he turned aside a late shorthanded breakaway attempt by Okotoks Bisons forward Phil Dillon during a 4-3 loss for the Thunder at the Rob Ebbesen Arena in Airdrie on Oct. 11.
“I saw him coming down the ice and knew that he wasn’t going to shoot the puck right away, so I just waited for him to make a move before he put my stick out,” Taplin said. “I felt I played strong against Okotoks, and while I have had a few games this year where I could have made some more stops, I have no complaints about how I have been playing.”
As Taplin looks to try and help the Thunder improve from a slow 2-5 start to the 2013/14 season, his main goals for his sophomore campaign in the league is to become a stronger player in goal that can make a difference for his team.
“My main goal is to become one of the top goalies in this league, but I just want to become more consistent first and to help this team get some wins,” Taplin said. “I really want to get into the playoffs and go as far as we can as a team.”
The Thunder, who is currently in sixth place in the Northern Division standings, will be back in action on Oct. 18 at the Ron Ebbesen Arena, when it plays host to the Banff Bears at 8 p.m.
On Oct. 20, the Thunder will travel on the road to Blackfalds for a 3:30 p.m. tilt with the Blackfalds Wranglers.