Monday, 25 March 2019

From Panda To Barracuda

The Alberta Golden Bears are considered as one of Canada's preeminent university hockey programs. Along with the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds and the Saskatchewan Huskies, one could make a case that these three schools are the likely favorites each and every season in capturing the U SPORTS Men's Hockey National Championship. One of the reasons Alberta is always playing for medals is due to the players they bring in, and we've seen three of the best sign pro contracts already as Luke Philp, Jason Fram, and Stephane Legault inked deals in the NHL, KHL, and ECHL, respectively. We can now add a fourth league to the graduating players' mailing list as goaltender Zach Sawchenko signed a one-way, two-year deal with the AHL's San Jose Barracuda today!

The Calgary, Alberta native played four seasons in the WHL with the Moose Jaw Warriors before capitalizing on the CHL scholarship program and enrolling at the University of Alberta where he played two seasons with the Golden Bears. Zach was 88-65-10 with Moose Jaw - including being 58-30-7 in his last two seasons - with a 3.20 GAA and a .904 save percentage, and the earned him WHL First All-Star Team honours in both 2015-16 and 2016-17 in his last two seasons with the Warriors.

In joining Alberta, his stats only got better as Sawchenko backstopped the Pandas to a gold medal and a silver medal over the last two seasons with the Golden Bears. Sawchenko finished his U SPORTS career with a 28-4-0 record, a 1.79 GAA, and a .919 save percentage as Sawchenko and the Bears ran roughshod over most Canada West teams. Sawchenko, who is only 21 years old, will now get a chance to establish himself as a professional behind Antoine Bibeau and Josef Korenar for the remainder of this season and into the next season.

"Nobody with our program would be surprised to see him in the NHL sooner rather than later," Bears GM Stan Marple told Connor Hood of Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics. "He has the talent and work ethic to reach the highest levels of professional hockey."

Despite his solid numbers in junior, Sawchenko was never drafted by an NHL team, leaving his options wide open after finishing his junior career. His choice of Alberta for school was definitely a good one, and his play at the U SPORTS level likely made him a wanted commodity. In the end, the Barracuda will get Sawchenko's services for the next two seasons, and that could lead to an NHL look at some point if he continues to perform well.

This summer, Zach Sawchenko can look back on his U SPORTS career and know that he was one of the best to ever don the pads in Canada West and across the nation in university hockey. He just can't reflect too long as he'll have a busy few months ahead of him as he gets himself set to try to win the starter's position in San Jose.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: