By Dave Leaderhouse
STEAD’S WORK ETHIC AND ATTITUDE HAVE HELPED MAKE HIM ONE OF SJHL’S PREMIERE GOALTENDERS
The blueprint of most successful hockey teams starts from the goal crease and works its way out. If a team has someone solid between the pipes then good things generally happen in the form of overall team success.
The Nipawin Hawks feel they have one of the best in Kristian Stead and head coach and general manager Doug Johnson even goes as far as to say he is the best he has ever had in his seven years with the organization.
“He has outstanding work ethic and a great compete level,” says Johnson, who doesn’t downgrade other stellar puckstoppers like Joe O’Brien and Davis Jones he has had while in Nipawin; he is simply sold on what Stead brings to the team. “His will to win is second to none.”
The 20-year-old Stead has been a workhorse since arriving in northeastern Saskatchewan just over 18 months ago. Last year he appeared in 45 regular-season games and posted a sparkling 2.51 goals-against average and .912 save percentage and he was just as brilliant in the playoffs (2.60 and .922) as he played in all 13 games as the Hawks reached the semi-finals for a second straight year before bowing out to the eventual league champion Melfort Mustangs in seven games.
This season he has been in 21 of the Hawks first 28 games and posting even more incredible numbers as he leads the league in save percentage at .935 and is third in GAA at 2.01. That performance has helped the Hawks allow the fewest goals against in the entire league and has them in a position to challenge the Flin Flon Bombers for the Sherwood Division lead.
“I think I am a player that is committed night in and night out to give us a chance to win,” understates the Merritt, B.C., native. “I’m generally calm and relaxed back there and I think you need that in a goaltender.”
Stead’s success in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League could be classed as somewhat of a surprise as prior to moving east he spent two years with the 100 Mile House Wranglers of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League and while he was once again a workhorse, his numbers weren’t even close to what he has done while in Nipawin.
As a 17-year-old with the Wranglers, the 6-foot-2, 187-pound Stead appeared in 31 games and had a 3.45 GAA and .897 save percentage while the following year he upped those stats to 3.00 and .916 in 40 appearances. He even had one start in the British Columbia Junior Hockey League with his hometown Merritt Centennials and that didn’t work out too well as he only managed to record a .749 GAA and .778 save percentage.
Johnson feels that Stead’s attitude and work ethic are key as to how he has developed from a player never having played Midget AAA to one of the best at the Junior “A” level.
“He does everything you ask of him and off the ice he works just as hard; he just wants to get better,” says Johnson.
With just over half a season left in his junior career, Stead is hoping to first, help the Hawks advance even further in the post-season and second, to secure some form of post-secondary opportunity so that he can continue to play while try and get an education in possibly criminal justice.
“That has been the plan for a few years,” admits Stead. “I’ve been chit chatty with a few schools, but there has been nothing concrete. I’d like to lock up a Division 1 scholarship, but we’ll have to see.”
Stead has shown remarkable improvement with each year of hockey and there is no indication that he won’t get better still. That bodes well for the Hawks in the second half of the season and for whatever happens in the future.
You can view his stats at http://sjhl.hockeytech.com/player?playerId=2834