There’s been no fun in the sun for University of Denver Pioneers goalie Tanner Jaillet this spring break.
Instead, the Red Deer product has dreams of the frozen variety.
His team is ranked number one in NCAA Men’s Hockey and will square off Saturday against Michigan Tech in hockey’s version of March Madness, aptly named the “Frozen Four”.
“We’ve had a lot of wins. It’s been fun. Learned lots. The most important part is ahead of us still so we’re looking forward to that,” he said.
“It’s going to be challenging. We’re playing a good team. We’re prepared. It’ll be fun but we’re expecting a battle. Nothing is going to be easy at this point in the season.”
The one-game elimination tournament is bracket style, with 16 teams playing off for the right to advance to the National Championship on April 8 at the United Center in Chicago.
A sophomore at DU, the five-foot-11, 184-pound netminder, who some coined a ‘late-bloomer’ has enjoyed a banner season, winning conference goalie of the year and is nominated for the 2017 Mike Richter Award as the NCAA’s top goalie.
“The one goal I had at the beginning of the year was just giving my team an opportunity to win games. We have the most wins in the NCAA right now, so that was mostly my focus. It just happened that the individual awards were a part of that,” he said.
A long way from the kid who loathed the fact he had to share the net all the way back in Timbits hockey and was cut from several top minor hockey teams.
“Red Deer is a pretty good hockey town. Didn’t have the easiest path in minor hockey, got cut from some of the top teams and those experiences have definitely helped me recently in my career and pushing through my career,” Jaillet said.
“Just that adversity, you’re going to deal with it sooner or later so it’s good to be able to know how to handle those situations and make the most of them.”
His numbers this season, with 24 wins and only four losses are tied for the best in the NCAA, his goals against average is second at a minuscule 1.82 and his save percentage is third, at .930.
With all the personal accolades coming his way, Jaillet said he never gave it any thought and was always focused on just getting better.
“There’s been some development this season, just getting comfortable in different situations through playing games. I’ve tried to work on a couple little things but there’s definitely been a progression to my game. I’m way ahead of where I started the year,” he said.
Getting better is something he’s become increasingly good at too, increasing his save percentage in two out of three seasons with the Fort McMurray Oil Barons in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, then incrementally improving it every season at DU.
“That’s one of the few things you can focus on is just get a little bit better each day,” Jaillet added.
“If you put in the work and work on those little details that translate into success in games – you’re going to continue to get better as a goalie which ultimately help your team and win some games.”