T-Birds goalie Ryan Gilchrist eager for the future

Mar 30, 2015, 1:19 PM | Updated: 1:23 pm

When the Thunderbirds announced that they had signed Lloyminster, Alberta native Ryan Gilchrist to a WHL standard player agreement on Feb. 20, it appeared that the goalie situation for the near future was settled.

Current T-Birds backup Logan Flodell has performed even better than expected in his limited action, including two big wins during the regular season’s final week over Portland and Kelowna to help cement Seattle’s third-place finish in the U.S. Division.

Gilchrist, who is currently 16 years old, has attended Seattle’s two prior training camps and been impressive each time. He figures to fit right in behind Flodell next year once 20-year-old Taran Kozun has moved on from the WHL. It’s possible Seattle could seek to add a more experienced goaltender prior to next season, but based on what we’ve seen out of both Flodell and Gilchrist, it may not be necessary.

Once his midget season ended, Gilchrist was excited to get up to Seattle and take in the final week of the regular season, as well as a playoff game deep in enemy territory.

First, he witnessed Seattle’s 6-3 victory over Portland that clinched a first-round playoff matchup between the two rivals.

“It’s exciting,” Gilchrist said about watching a strong Thunderbirds performance in front of a sold-out ShoWare Center crowd. “It’s a fast hockey game and the crowd is even louder than I expected.”

While Gilchrist had spent some time in Seattle each of the past two summers for training camps, it was his first chance to take in an actual game. He was in town for the entire week with his mother, giving him the chance to acclimate himself with the city before likely moving here full time later this year.

On Gilchrist’s part, there was no hesitation to sign once the Thunderbirds approached him.

“(I was ready to sign) as soon as they asked me,” said Gilchrist, whose Midget team lost in the third round of the playoffs. “I was just waiting for them. Ever since I came back in August for my second training camp, I was set on what I wanted to do. This is where I want to be.”

Despite playing against players that were sometimes 4 or 5 years older than him, Gilchrist never looked out of place in the two training camps that he attended. While it may have taken a moment for him to adjust to the increased speed of the game, the young goaltender went on the turn some heads and force the Thunderbirds’ front office to take notice.

Like Kozun, Gilchrist also likes to play the puck and help his defensemen out. While he plays a butterfly style, he knows how to use his size to his advantage, something that he’ll surely become even better at under the tutelage of T-Birds goalie coach Ian Gordon.

“I try to stay standing when I can and cover the top of the net,” Gilchrist said. “I play butterfly most of the time and like to come out of my net to play the puck.”

Gilchrist spent the past week practicing with Seattle before heading down to Portland to watch Game 1 of the rivalry playoff series at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, a 4-3 comeback victory for the Thunderbirds that started the postseason in dramatic fashion.

“Practicing with the team (last week) was great. I thought I got better as the week went on,” Gilchrist said after the busy weekend. “The playoff atmosphere in Portland was very exciting and I thought the crowd was crazy. It was the most exciting hockey game I’ve ever been to.”

Somewhat of an outsider now as he awaits his opportunity, Gilchrist looks to be an important piece of the puzzle in the future and someone who will certainly be a major factor in the Seattle-Portland rivalry, one that may be the best in the entire Canadian Hockey League.


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