New Thunderbirds goalie Roddy Ross ready for WHL challenge
Just prior to the start of the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s regular season, the Spruce Grove Saints took on the Camrose Kodiaks in a preseason game. Camrose’s goalie that night, Roddy Ross, had a strong game and impressed one of the owners of the Saints. That owner, Lindesy Leckelt, just happens to also be one of the owners of the Seattle Thunderbirds.
Leckelt, an old goalie himself, made a phone call after the game.
“Lindsey Leckelt called me and told me this guy was big time,” Seattle general manager Bil La Forge said. “I went to take a look at him and thought the same thing and then (Seattle goalie coach Ian Gordon) went out and watched him and he agreed. It was kind of a team effort on this one.”
The Thunderbirds added the undrafted Ross to their protected list and continued to monitor his progress during the season.
“It was one of my first games in, that was a big game,” Ross says of the game against Spruce Grove. “I think I played really well there, that was what started it off.”
The 18-year-old Ross continued the season with Camrose and played well. He posted a 2.94 goals-against average with an impressive .920 save-percentage. Those numbers came a year after he led the Saskatchewan Midget Hockey League with a .940 percentage.
As La Forge and the Thunderbirds started to make moves in advance of the WHL trade deadline, Ross was brought into the picture. Seattle moved goalie Liam Hughes to Lethbridge and would need a goalie to come in and share duties with Cole Schwebius.
Ross got the call.
“A couple of days before New Year’s they told me it was going to go down and probably going to happen,” Ross says of his signing with Seattle. “I was all in, I’m not going to miss this opportunity.”
Before he knew it, Ross was headed to Brandon to meet his new team. He only knew one current player, Jaxan Kaluski, but with the Thunderbirds on their eastern swing, he was going to be playing close to his home of Meadow Lake, Sask.
He got his first taste of WHL action in Brandon, coming into relief, but would get to start the next night in Regina. He stopped 19 shots against the Pats to pick up his first WHL win but he would face a bigger challenge three nights later when he’d start against the Prince Albert Raiders.
The Raiders had only lost twice at home all season and were the CHL’s top ranked club. They far and away led the WHL in goals and featured several top players.
Ross wasn’t fazed and made 32 saves to back stop the Thunderbirds to a 4-1 win.
“We talked about that team a lot in the AJHL, about how good they are,” Ross said about Prince Albert. “To go there and beat them, that’s something you wanted but didn’t really expect it. It was nice to get that win there, it was huge.
Ross was in net again the next game against Moose Jaw and picked up his third win — his record climbing to 3-0.
Ross is soft spoken and calm on the ice. Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette has praised him for his lack of wasted effort in the crease. He doesn’t seem rattled, as proven by the game in Prince Albert.
“I think it’s something that I’ve grown up with,” he said of his demeanor. “Something I’m good at, just calming myself down and staying calm in the net.”
He admits that jumping from the AJHL to the WHL has been an adjustment as he’s facing higher quality shots now. The competition level is also higher, but Ross says he welcomes that.
Ross had opportunities to attend WHL camps this fall but decided to turn down a couple of invites, choosing to focus on his game and get ready for the season with Camrose. It’s worked out to his, and Seattle’s, benefit as he’s now in the WHL, a league he’s always wanted to play in.
Tuesday morning he was at the ShoWare Center taking mugshots and getting to know his new home. Everything was new to him as he didn’t have a lot of pre-existing knowledge about Seattle.
“I didn’t know much other than it was in the States and in a nice place,” he said. “They’ve said the fans are great, they have a lot of fans and I’m looking forward to playing here.”
As the second half of the season kicks off, look for Ross and Schwebius to share the net hoping to give the Thunderbirds some solid goaltending as they try to secure a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Thunderbirds are on the road Friday night against the Tri-City Americans but return home Saturday to face the Victoria Royals.