Sweet Glove Save Seals Decision

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‘Sweet glove save’ seals decision

The moment the puck hit his glove — and with a little bit of flair — Jim Kruger knew he had discovered his natural position.

Kruger was seven or eight years old, and it was his turn to don the goalie equipment for his minor hockey team back home in Minnesota.

“I put on the pads and made a sweet glove save in warm-ups,” Kruger recalled with a chuckle.

“Everyone was all pumped up about it, so I felt pretty cool and wanted to keep doing it.”

From that point forward, the now 20-year-old has played goalie.

Now the goaltender for the Langley Rivermen junior A hockey club, Kruger’s stay in the B.C. Hockey League will be shortlived as next season, he will attend Dartmouth College on scholarship.

Kruger likes how vital his position is to the team.

“Always having an impact on the game, being the guy that can win it or lose it (with a save), is pretty exciting,” he explained.

“Dealing with (pressure) just becomes second nature after a while.”

Growing up in Minnesota — where the passion for hockey equally rivals that of Canada — Kruger led his high school, Minnetonka to the state championship game in 2010, where they fell in the final. The second-place finish is the school’s best-ever showing.

Kruger said he was lucky to play on some great high school teams.

During home games, 2,500 fans would pack the school’s home arena.

“It would be packed, fire code violations everywhere,” he said.

Kruger put up some eye-popping numbers, going 18-2-2 with a 1.81 goals against average and a .935 save percentage to go along with four shutouts.

One of his highlights came during the State championship tournament, which is played at the Xcel Energy Centre, home of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, and typically sells out.

The semifinal game stood out in particular, as Minnetonka defeated Hill-Murray 2-1 in quadruple overtime — a game Kruger describes as one of his best ever.

Last year saw Kruger head to the Texas Tornado of the tier 2 NAHL where he again posted top-10 numbers: 25-9-4 with three shutouts, a 2.35 goals against average and a .914 save percentage.

Wanting to move up to the tier 1 USHL, Kruger could not find a team with an opening, but was lured to Langley and the BCHL.

And while his numbers have taken a hit with the Rivermen — he is 10-20-0 with a 3.92 goals against average and .893 save percentage — that can be attributed partly to the fact the team is largely an expansion squad with limited BCHL experience (only four players had experience at this level heading into the season).

Rivermen coach Steve O’Rourke sees lots of potential for Kruger in the game.

“He is very skilled,” he said, rattling of Kruger’s size and athleticism as some of his key attributes. “I think he has a bright future in the game.”

The coach described Kruger as a quiet leader, both on and off the ice, whom the other players look up to.

“He doesn’t say a lot, but when he does, it is meaningful,” O’Rourke said.

“He will raise his voice when he needs to, when it is appropriate.

“It is not a constant barrage, it is ‘enough is enough, let’s get going’ and it will be forceful.”

The coach also discussed his goaltender’s demeanor, as both a positive and potential area to improve.

“He doesn’t get rattled (but) he needs to be dialed up a little bit at times,” O’Rourke said.

“But for the most part, he is very calm under pressure in any situation.

“He is very relaxed and composed.”

Another quality O’Rourke mentioned was Kruger’s intelligence.

And it is not just hockey-smarts either, as evidenced by Kruger’s 2030 score on the SAT.

His score on the SAT — the maximum is 2400 — puts him in the 90th to 95th percentile among all test takers.

“My dream has always been to go to an Ivy League (school),” he said.

“I have always been a strong student and always put a value on education.”

Gary Ahuja

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