Mac Engel is just getting started.
The 20-year-old former Prince George Cougars goaltender played his first game with the Regina Pats on Wednesday night, stopping 17 of 20 shots in a 3-1 loss to the Prince Albert Raiders.
Although Engel had hoped for a better result, he felt it was something to build upon.
Every game will be a stepping stone for me now, offered Engel, who was plucked off the WHL waiver wire on Oct. 15. Ive had a while off so each game Ill get better and better, just as our team is getting stronger and stronger.
Wednesdays contest marked the first start for Engel since March 15 of last season, when he was with the Prince George Cougars. He returned to Prince George for training camp this season but was eventually sent home after the team decided to go with two younger goalies.
When a trade didnt materialize, Engel was placed on waivers. The Pats claimed him to replace Teagan Sacher, who unexpectedly left the team to begin his post-secondary education.
Engel had been sitting at home for about a month when Regina picked him up. The Red Deer native practised with the team for a few days before he was deemed ready for his Pats debut.
It was awesome to get back playing and to be a part of this organization, he said. Its such a great team. Its unbelievable to be back (in the WHL) and getting back in there. It was a really good feeling -- other than the loss.
The fact that it came at the expense of a six-game winning streak just added to his disappointment.
Its always disappointing to see a streak come to an end, said Engel. We just have to move on. We have a tough team in the Edmonton Oil Kings coming in (tonight) so we have to get ready for that.
Head coach Malcolm Cameron was happy with Engel's work.
I thought he played well, said the Pats bench boss. He gave up a goal on a 3-on-1. We kind of let him fend for himself on that one. The third goal we let a first-round NHL draft pick just walk in uncontested. You cant really fault him for those. I thought he battled, he gave us a chance to win. Its good to see him in some game action.
The Pats plan to see more.
Although Dawson MacAuley started 10 straight games prior to Wednesdays contest, the Pats believe that Engel gives them a viable one-two punch.
Hes a veteran guy so we like that, added Cameron. He handles the puck really well, hes calm in the net, hes feisty. He hadnt played in a meaningful game this year so its going to take him some time to get back into a rhythm but I feel good about what I saw.