Cole Schwebius ready to step in when Thunderbirds need him
Like many young hockey players before him, there was one specific thing that drew Cole Schwebius to the position of goalie.
“I thought the equipment was pretty cool,” he says with a laugh.
The pads, mask, goalie stick, glove and blocker are definitely a unique aspect of playing goal, but it turns out once he donned the gear, Schwebius found something else out about being in net. He found out that he liked the difference, the importance of it, and the fact that you stay on the ice for the whole game.
“I like being the main guy,” Schwebius says. “I wasn’t a big fan of being a player and coming off. I liked being be able to make or break a game. I thought that pressure was pretty cool.”
Growing up in Kelowna, Schwebius started to excel at the position. The Thunderbirds found him and selected him in the 10th round of the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft.
He came to camp with Seattle and played well but didn’t make the team out of training camp as a 16-year-old. Due to injuries he did get called up as an emergency back up on a few occasions which allowed him to practice with the team.
That helped him coming into this fall’s camp as a 17-year-old where he would battle with Eric Ward for the back up spot. After a strong preseason he would end up getting the gig, backing up starter Liam Hughes. With an older work horse like Hughes ahead of him, Schwebius has only been able to get into five games with the Thunderbirds.
It’s been an adjustment to be the back up.
“I’ve never been in this kind of role for a team before,” Schwebius says. “It’s definitely been new and there’s been stretches where it’s been tough but I’ve learned so much and I wouldn’t have traded my time here so far for anything.”
He says that he has learned a lot from the veteran Hughes and that the two enjoy a healthy and fun relationship.
“He’s been great so far,” Schwebius says of Hughes. “He’s been helping me out, telling me stuff and a great role model so far. I get pretty competitive too, in practices we get competitive with each other. Healthy competition is good, really pushes each other.”
Playing as a back up can be rough.
Goalies like to play every game but Schwebius has handled the new role well. In his five games he’s posted a .915 save-percentage and a goals-against of 2.68. In his four starts, he’s given the Thunderbirds a chance to win, including standing on his head in Everett early in the year where he made 39 saves to earn a point in an overtime loss.
He hadn’t picked up a win prior to last Friday’s start in Kennewick against the Tri-City Americans. The game was tied at one heading into the third period. Seattle killed off a penalty to start the third period and then scored a couple of quick goals.
The first win was in sight, but he tried not to let his mind wander there too much.
“I didn’t let myself have those thoughts until the last minute and kind of thought ‘well, this might be it’,” he says of what would turn out to be his first WHL victory. “That was exciting, but I just try to stay focused on the present play because you never know what’s going to happen… I was pretty pumped, it’s been a dream of mine for a long time.”
With the Thunderbirds starting their first three-in-three weekend Friday night at the accesso ShoWare Center against the Spokane Chiefs, it’s likely that Schwebius will get a start at some point during the three games as Hughes will need a night off.
As he has been all year, he’ll be ready for when he gets the call from head coach Matt O’Dette.
“I prepare pretty much the same way every game I’m backing up,” Schwebius says. “Every game like I would play so that if I ever get the nod I’m ready to go in.”