Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League
Kristian Stead has been more than steady.
He’s been downright spectacular.
He’s a big reason why the red-hot Nipawin Hawks have won 11 straight games in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
“He’s pretty special,” seven-year Hawks head coach Doug Johnson says of his veteran goalie Stead, a 20-year-old veteran of Merritt, B.C.
“He’s on a roll now like nothing I’ve ever seen — not only by him, but any goalie in all my years of playing and coaching.
“This is a pretty special goalie right now.”
Stead sports a 23-9-0 record, 1.87 goals-against average and .939 save-percentage and six shutouts so far this season.
The 6’2″, 187-pound Stead has earned both goalie of the week and goalie of the month honours for January in the SJHL.
“I’m feeling like I’ve hit my stride,” Stead said Monday. “I feel comfortable where my game is right now. I don’t think I’ve changed anything since the start of the year. Things just seem to be going really well right now.”
He continued his amazing run last week with two more victories and another shutout, not allowing a goal for a 259-minute span. He stopped 76 of 78 shots in back-to-back weekend wins over rival Melfort, including a 33-save shutout.
Stead went 6-1-0 during the month of January with a 1.65 GAA and .946 save-percentage and two shutouts. He won his last six starts of the month and, for in his final five starts, he was 5-0, 0.60, .981.
“I think he makes the other team very uncomfortable because they think they have to be perfect to score on him — that’s how good he is,” said Johnson, whose team is now 31-12-2-1 this season and closing in on the Flin Flon Bombers in the Sherwood Division.
Stead spent two seasons in the Kootenay International Hockey League (KIHL) with the 100 Mile House Wranglers, seeing action in two games with the British Columbia Hockey League’s Merritt Centennials those two years.
“I enjoyed my time in the KI — it’s a great stepping-stone league and I feel it definitely helped develop me into the goalie I am today,” said Stead.
“I had a good opportunity present itself in Nipawin with Doug Johnson. I figured I’d take a chance and jump all over it and it’s worked out greatly.”
LOOKING TO PLAY NEXT LEVEL
Stead says he is looking to play at the post-secondary level either in the United States or Canada.
“I still have hopes of getting a post-secondary education and I’d like to get a scholarship at some point,” he said.
“There’s been some chit-chat throughout the year but nothing (concrete) quite yet.”
HAWKS LOADED UP
The Hawks have loaded up for their playoff push.
They added forwards Josh Bly, Keegan Milligan and Brandan Arnold prior to the trade deadline and sniper Eric Bolden after Christmas. As well, they picked up D-man Thomas Lenchynshyn.
“The team’s really clicking right now,” said Stead. “Everybody’s on the same page. Bringing in those guys at the deadline, that really helped the team — some missing pieces to the puzzle. We’ve got a really deep team.
“Even off the ice, the guys are really clicking. It’s a pretty close bunch so that’s always nice.”
So is that winning streak, coach Johnson admits.
“It just shows that the hard work the guys are putting in pays off and it’s nice because they’re buying into what we’re preaching,” said Johnson. “Guys want to battle and compete and challenge Flin Flon for first in our division. That’s all you can ask of the guys.”