~ Written by Jamie Neugebauer (@Neugsie)
One old hockey adage to evaluate a player’s value asks the simple question: “What have you done for me lately?”
As much as anyone has done anything for anyone ‘lately’, thanks to the Pandemic, then based on that question the Flin Flon Bombers have to be excited about projected No. 1 goaltender Cal Schell.
That ‘lately’ really goes back to March 11, 2020, the last time anyone played in a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoff game.
That night a Bombers team up three games to none on a scrappy, young, and desperate Broncos team rolled into Humboldt’s Elgar Pedersen Arena, and Schell proceeded to stand his head. He made 44 often-spectacular stops on 45 shots and helped Flin Flon become the only team in the league that year to make it to the second round as Covid brought the SJHL to a screeching halt the very next day.
“If he can consistently play at that the level showed in Game 4 against the Broncos,” Bombers’ head coach and general manager Mike Reagan said, “then I feel he’s a championship-calibre goalie.”
Schell, a late 2001 birth-year, was born and raised in Burlington, ON, moving his way through his local minor hockey system before breaking into the junior game with the classy Ontario Junior B Hamilton Kilty B’s in 2018-19 as a 17-year-old.
His dominance at that level earned him a spot in 19-20 with the British Columbia Hockey League’s Surrey Eagles, who played him 14 times before moving the 6-foot-2 puck stopped on to the Bombers at the trade deadline Jan. 9, 2020.
Although his actual time playing in the SJHL has been limited to 11 games at the time of writing due to the pandemic, the community and the league have more than made an impact on him.
“(Being a Bomber and in the SJHL) is amazing,” Schell said.
“The first thing I noticed was how supportive and great the fans are, the atmosphere in the Whit is just unbelievable, and there is nothing like it. I think as a league, it’s a different style than the others I played in (like the BCHL, and in Ontario). It’s a lot tougher, and pretty defensive-minded, which I think translates well to the next level. I find the way I have to step up and perform in the SJ every night has shown me what it takes to perform at the next level, so it’s one of those leagues that prepare you very well.”
Schell noted that he has been doing everything he possibly can in his Ontario home, where on-ice training is severely restricted, to train and be ready for his final Junior season. Yet as the day he can throw on the maroon and white jersey again approaches, he has nothing but confidence that his goals of an NCAA scholarship, and his team’s goals, are in reach.
“I am thinking that as a team we are going for it all,” he said.
“The way we are approaching this summer, coming into camp, is that with the team we are building we can go for a championship. I think it’s time for Flin Flon to bring one home again, and I think everyone is excited about it. This is our last ride as 20-year-olds, so it’s now or never. It’s going to be an exciting group, and I feel like we have a chance.”
According to Coach Reagan, Schell has a “real high ceiling and is a potential Division I goalie. He’s big and athletic, and when he’s in the zone he’s a difficult guy to beat.”
If Game 4 vs. Humboldt is the real Cal Schell, then those college scouts will be taking notice very soon.