By Craig Stein
Homegrown Stars’ Goalie Breaks Record
The SJHL career record for shutouts has changed hands a few times in the last decade, but Battlefords North Stars’ goaltender Taryn Kotchorek has taken claim to the mark this season, breaking the record his 12th on January 30th, and raising the bar again with his 13th on February 9th.
“I actually had no idea I’d broken the record or that I was even close,” said Kotchorek. “I figured it out the next day because some of my teammates mentioned they’d seen it online.”
It’s been a tough record to keep track of in recent years, because it keeps getting broken. The way Kotchorek and the Stars are going, and have been going the past three seasons, there’s reason to believe he might not be done setting that bar.
Yorkton’s Lynden Sammartino broke a long standing mark with 9. He finished his days as a Terrier in the 2007-2008 season. Sammartino’s record was very short-lived, as Humboldt’s Taylor Nelson bettered that mark with 10 that very same season. A.J. Whiffen from Weyburn upped that to 11 in 2009-2010, and was tied recently by Flin Flon’s Zac Robidoux, who spent just two seasons with the Bombers, but racked up five shutouts in 2015-2016, and six more in last season for 11 total.
Kotchorek, who played his Midget hockey in the ‘AA’ ranks with the Battleford Barons, put up four shutouts as an SJHL rookie in 2015-2016, five a year ago, and four more, so far this season.
“I have to give a lot of the credit to the focus our team has put on defense these last three seasons. Our team takes pride in our defensive zone play and keeping our goals against down. They’ve made my job pretty easy and I just do my job and help out when I can.”
Kotchorek actually didn’t lead his team in shutouts last year, as 17-year-old rookie Joel Gryzbowski had six, helping the club combine for 11 en route to a Canalta Cup title. In Kotchorek’s three seasons, the North Stars have combined for 25 team shutouts. The 20-year-old says him and Gryzbowski push each other, and there’s never been any kind of ‘goaltending controversy.’
“We’re great friends and we’re both super competitive. If either of us goes out and plays unreal, the next night he or I have to compete at the same level. We hold each other to another level of compete and we get along off the ice so it makes the situation easy to handle. We both want the same thing and that’s another championship in North Battleford.”
Kotchorek does remember his first shutout. It was at the Showcase in Warman against Humboldt in his rookie season, and he made 15 saves in what he called a ‘slower-paced’ game. However his most memorable shutout was not one of his 13 during the regular season.
“Last year in the playoffs against Flin Flon. It was my Grandma’s birthday weekend and I had about 30 family members all the from Vancouver to Saskatchewan at the game. It was my first playoff shutout and it was pretty special to do it at home in front of my family.”
Because he’s platooned with Gryzbowski for much of the past two seasons, Kotchorek’s shutout mark has come in a relatively low number of starts. It’s taken him just 81 appearances, and during that time, he has a 57-14-3-2 record, 2.00 GAA, .925% to go along with the 13 shutouts.
If anyone’s able to break this latest mark, it might just be Gryzbowski, who sits with 8, and the 18-year-old is eligible to play two more seasons still. Gryzbowski is a career 36-5-0-1, 1.73 GAA, .933% in 42 appearances. He started this season with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades before coming back to the Stars early in the year. His WHL rights were moved to Victoria, and he suited up for the Royals in Edmonton earlier this week.
The North Stars sit two points back of the league-leading Nipawin Hawks as they get set for a weekend road trip to Estevan, Notre Dame and Weyburn this Saturday to Monday. Kotchorek says the top seed would be nice, but it’s not everything.
“Having home ice through the whole playoffs would be pretty big. But right now we just want to make sure the team is rolling heading into the playoffs. There’s a whole new level come playoff time, it’s a new season.”
Kotchorek would know. Him and the Stars were undefeated in last year’s post-season, going 12-0 on their way to the title. He personally went 9-0, 2.04, .925, and of course, one shutout.