Justine McIntosh, 17, has watched her big brother Mat man the net many times before, but never from the seat she had on Dec. 13.
With goaltender Brenden Fiebelkorn on a family vacation and its go-to emergency goalies unavailable, the Raiders Jr. Hockey Club found itself without a backup netminder prior to a game against the Transcona Railers.
Enter Justine, a goalie with the Winnipeg Avros female AAA midget team, to save the day, taking part in the team’s pregame warm-up and sitting on the bench as a backup, should she be needed.
"It was so cool. Just to experience it, I never thought that would ever happen to me. It was just awesome," said Justine, a Grade 12 River East Collegiate student, of her time on the bench with the boys.
"I was so nervous for the warm-up. My brother said ‘Just take it easy. It’s just like anything else’ and it was. It wasn’t bad at all once I was out there."
Warm-up was a breeze, but Justine did experience one very tense moment during the game, when Mat decided to give a Railer player a taste of his blocker.
"I got slew-footed and I guess I got a little bit excited and kind of went after the guy.Apparently my mom almost had a heart attack," said Mat, 21.
Fortunately, Mat wasn’t ejected from the game and the Raiders went on to a 4-0 win. Still, Mat thinks his sister could have commanded the crease.
"A lot of kids in the league this year are her age, and she played boys hockey for a while too, so I think she would have held her own," Mat said.
Mat would know. Growing up in East St. Paul, Mat and Justine played a lot of shinny together in the McIntosh’s backyard rink, and for three years Mat served as Justine’s goaltending coach in summer hockey school. In fact, Mat is the reason Justine strapped on the pads in the first place.
"I started out as a player, but I guess just watching my brother, who was a goalie all my life, I started to play goalie when I was six," Justine said.
Anyone who’s been in a sporting goods store and seen the price of pads knows that two kids tending goal is a hockey parent’s worst nightmare, but it’s a position both siblings had their hearts set on.
"I remember watching hockey with my dad and I’d always look at (the goalies), what they were doing, how they’d stand, even behind the play," Mat said.
"I like to have fun out there," Justine said. "People always say they see me smiling through my cage. But, I take it seriously. I’m competitive out there. I get mad at myself when I let in a goal."
She’s not letting in many this season, as the Avros currently sit second in the Manitoba Female Midget Hockey League.
Mat is having a great year as well. The Raiders are currently in second place in the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League and Mat was selected to play in the league’s all-star game on Sat., Feb. 1.
"This is my last year in the league so I’m definitely going to give it a 110% to try and get a ring with the group of guys we have here," Mat said.