Despite some early team struggles to start the new season, Estevan Bruins goaltender Cam Hrdlicka has picked up where he left off last year.
The 19-year-old goaltender has looked sharp through the first few weeks of the SJHL season. Most recently, the Calgary native made 43 saves in a 3-2 shoot out win over the Notre Dame Hounds on Tuesday, leading the Bruins to their third straight win.
Still, the returning netminder isn't taking anything for granted, even though he's the bona fide number one guy in net this year.
"Before the start of last year, I didn't know if I'd be playing Junior A hockey at all," Hrdlicka said earlier this season. "I won't say that I'm comfortable, but it just feels nice to know what position I was coming into at the start of the season. I definitely know I still need to earn all my minutes and earn all my playing time."
Last season, Hrdlicka won 18 games in a back up role to Boston Bilous. He said he wants to incorporate more puck handling into his game this year after learning a lot from Bilous in that area last season.
"That's definitely one thing I think I need to be improving on," Hrdlicka said. "It's something I've been working on a lot, but I just need to implement it a little more in games. There's certain games where I find I've been doing it, but that's definitely one thing I think I still need to do better at. Even after just watching Boston from last year, I've got a lot more I can do with that."
Bruins assistant coach Aren Miller said Hrdlicka's confidence continues to grow.
"I think he's just getting more and more comfortable," said Miller, who's an ex-pro goaltender himself. "Obviously he missed some time in the pre-season and missed a couple games there where he got hurt in Nipawin. And now I think he's finding his groove and getting into that flow where you're playing a lot and you're feeling good. He's quick and when he's sharp, he's one of the best in the league."
Hrdlicka's dad Jeremy has followed the Bruins closely this year. He was in Warman for the SJHL showcase wearing a #35 jersey.
"I love watching him. I thought he had an amazing year last year," Jeremy Hrdlicka said. "I think he's come into this season with that mindset of being the starting goalie. He's playing well and I think he's going to continue to play well."
Hrdlicka has led the Bruins to three straight victories as they prepare for a home game Friday night against the Nipawin Hawks.