If the Vancouver Giants have success putting pucks into the net behind Ty Edmonds over the next two days, they'll join a rare Western Hockey League fraternity.
The rest of the WHL will surely want in on the secret.
As the Calgary Hitmen found out on the weekend, Edmonds does not resemble a 17-year-old rookie when he's tending goal for the Prince George Cougars. He has the poise of a veteran and has the numbers to back him up. Edmonds ranks third overall among WHL goalies in goals-against average (2.30) and save percentage (.924) and already has two shutouts (only Patrik Polivka of the Victoria Royals, with three, has more).
Edmonds also sports a winning record (7-3-2) and leads the Cougars in one other category -- the ability to inspire confidence in his teammates. He's bailed them out so many times this season, they owe it to him to try that much harder to keep the puck away from him.
"I don't even need to say anything, anybody who has been watching can see he's been remarkable, the guy gives us a chance every game," said Cougars assistant captain Zach Pochiro.
Edmonds played junior A last season for the Virden Oil Capitals and has quickly emerged as a potential WHL rookie of the year candidate.
"I've always been capable of what I'm showing on the ice, it's just that consistency was my issue and now that I've got consistency down it makes me look better," said Edmonds, a native of Winnipeg. "The team is a lot stronger than last year and any little plays the defenceman help me out on makes it a lot easier for me. If we can keep it under 30 shots a game, which we have been managing close to, that makes my life easier."
Cougars goaltending coach Justin Cardinal is not at all surprised to see the six-foot-two, 175-pound Edmonds excelling.
"He's keeping his game simple, he just goes out and plays and doesn't put too much pressure on himself, " said Cardinal. "One of the biggest keys to being consistent is not overdoing anything, just go play. He's a big body who moves well and is athletic and he competes. He 's a quiet, calm guy in the net who leads by example."
The Giants (4-9-1-1) are near the end of the most brutal phase of their 2013-14 schedule, coming off a 4-1 win Sunday in Kamloops. They began October by losing all six games in their tour of the Eastern Conference, but have since won three of five games. Since the Giants' 4-3 overtime win over Calgary last Wednesday in Vancouver they've had only two days off, one of those a travel day to get to Prince George. They played Friday, Saturday and Sunday, leading up to their date with the Cougars (7-7-0-2) tonight, the first of a two-game set on consecutive nights for the Giants at CN Centre.
"They will have played five [games] in six [nights] and obviously our mindset would be to try to play as hard a game as we can and try to wear them down a bit and see if we can scratch out a few points," said Cougars head coach Mark Holick.
"We can't take anybody lightly. Any team coached by Don Hay is a hardworking group so we have to be prepared for that. They have guys like [Jackson] Houck and [Carter] Popoff who can skate and guys who can hit. They have a good mix. Their goaltending has struggled a bit, but Payton Lee played very well against us last year so we'd better be ready to go."
The Cougars are in the middle of a six-game homestand that will bring Kelowna to town this weekend. The Cougars are still without winger Jari Erricson (shoulder injury) but are otherwise healthy.
The addition of David Soltes to the Cats' lineup, playing right wing on a line with Troy Bourke and Chase Witala, gives the Cougars another solid scoring combination to complement the Alex Forsberg-Jansen Harkins-Pochiro trio.
Soltes hurt his leg in the second game of the season in Everett and missed 12 games. The 18-year-old from Kosice, Slovakia scored his second goal of the season Friday night against Calgary and fired the deciding shot in the shootout that night.