Goaltender Alex Moodie, a 16-year-old from Winnipeg, has received the Christmas gift that keeps on giving from the Western Hockey League's Saskatoon Blades.
Moodie, called up by the Blades three weeks ago from the Winnipeg Wild of the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League, has played in 11 straight WHL games and posted a 7-3-0 record. He had backstopped the Blades to five straight wins until Wednesday night's 6-4 loss to the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Moodie has been replacing regular starter Andrey Makarov, the goaltender who helped Russia win silver at the world junior hockey championship.
"You never want to see a teammate go down but it's been a great opportunity for me to get some playing experience at this elite level," the 6-foot-1, 161-pound Moodie said. "I really want to take as much out of it as I can. I know I'll bring as much as I can back to my team in Winnipeg. Getting used to the shots and the speed of the game quickly has really helped a lot."
Moodie recorded his first career WHL shutout last week in a 2-0 win in Brandon over the Wheat Kings, spoiling the homecoming game for Wheat Kings captain and Team Canada world junior team member Mark Stone.
It was the first time in Blades history a 16-year-old recorded a shutout.
"Getting a chance to play against guys like Mark Stone and Kevin Sundher, top scorers in the league, and to know that I shut them out is just a great feeling," Moodie said. "The guys here have been great to me. I know the guys have confidence in me."
Moodie's first game was Dec. 27 in Saskatoon when he replaced Adam Todd in the third period in a 7-2 loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings. He saved eight of nine shots he faced.
"Our team was struggling throughout the month of December and this young guy came in relief of our backup goalie in his first game dressed against Edmonton and played extremely well and so we've never taken him out of the net since," said Blades coach Lorne Molleken. "He's playing with all kinds of confidence right now and certainly once he adjusted to the speed of the game at the Western Hockey League level, he's been real consistent, real composed and he's done a great job for us."
Makarov came back from the world junior tournament only to suffer a concussion in his first game back.
Molleken said Moodie is "a tall, slender kid but he plays big in the net."
"He challenges shooters. There's been some pucks that have got through him but he's a great competitor and he doesn't let it bother him," Molleken said. "For a 16-year-old to have that type of mental makeup and the way he approaches each day, that's something special."
Without Moodie, the Wild are still first in Manitoba with just one regulation loss in 34 games.
"I just got a call (from the Blades), we won't be seeing him for at least another week," said Wild coach Paul Krueger. "He's one of the top goaltenders in our league so it's a natural thing for him wanting to get to the WHL and given that opportunity, he's making the most of it."
Molleken said it is hoped Makarov will be cleared to play by Jan. 23 or 24 so Moodie, listed as an affiliate player, will head back to the Wild.