CALGARY — His numbers were simply too good for him to be considered second best.
Red Deer Rebels Czech star Patrik Bartosak was honoured Wednesday as the Western Hockey League goaltender of the year, a fitting follow-up to a masterful season in which he led the team to a fourth-place finish in the Eastern Conference.
Bartosak returned to his home in Koprivnice, Czech Republic, two weeks ago and was unavailable for comment, but did offer the following via Twitter: “This thing means a lot to me and I really appreciate it. Huge thanks goes to everybody who supports my team and me.”
Rebels associate coach Jeff Truitt was only too willing to toast the WHL’s best stopper following the WHL awards luncheon at the Deerfoot Inn and Casino.
“He’s absolutely deserving of this award with the numbers he put up and how he was relied upon this year,” said Truitt. “He kept us in all the games and his numbers were outstanding compared to a lot of the other guys and there was quite a deep crop of good goaltenders this year. For him to be recognized like this is a real honour for him.”
Bartosak beat out Portland’s Mac Carruth, the Western Conference nominee, for the Del Wilson Trophy. Carruth played 2,275 minutes and finished second in the league with a 2.06 goals-against average, six shutouts, a .929 save percentage and a 30-7-0-2 win-loss record for the WHL regular-season and Western Conference playoff champion Winterhawks.
Bartosak, meanwhile, was fourth in the WHL with a 2.26 GAA, plus had a league-best (among starters) save percentage of .935 and five shutouts. He was flawless in shootouts, with his 8-0 record in that department helping him to an overall slate of 33-14-5-0 while playing 3,134 regular-season minutes.
But there’s more to Bartosak than statistics. His competitive spirit and approach to the game come to mind.
“His focus is unbelievable,” said Truitt. “He just comes to work every day and does what he needs to do. Nothing really fazes him and it showed this season in his play. He was very consistent.
“Goaltenders are all by themselves back there. They have to keep themselves ready to go and he certainly does a good job of that.”
The six-foot-one netminder, who celebrated his 20th birthday on March 29, has been personable and approachable since joining the Rebels in 2011.
“He’s such a great guy. He has a great demeanour about him and that’s important,” said Truitt.
Bartosak is eligible for June’s NHL entry draft and is a good bet to be selected at some point considering his 2012-13 season accomplishments.
The Rebels are hoping he will be drafted since an NHL team would be able to wait a year to sign him, leaving the Eastern Conference first-team all-star with the option of returning to Red Deer for his WHL overage season.
“If we get him back it will be a great bonus for us,” said Truitt.
l The Seattle Thunderbirds have signed their first pick in the 2012 bantam draft — the first pick overall — to a standard WHL player contract.
Barzal played for the Vancouver Northeast Chiefs in the British Columbia Major Midget Hockey League this season. In 34 games he had 103 points on 29 goals and 74 assists with 34 penalty minutes. He set the BCMMHL record for most assists in a season.
He also represented B.C. at the Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup in November. He had two goals and two assists in four games at the tournament and was selected as an all-star.