It's extremely telling when a 2.44 goals-against-average and .916 save percentage are the worst numbers in your career.
Yet somehow, that's exactly the case for Battlefords North Stars goaltender Taryn Kotchorek, who, despite career-low numbers this season, sports a .925 save percentage and 2.00 goals-against-average in 81 career regular season games in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, while carrying a 57-14-0-3 record.
The North Battleford native recently broke the all-time Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League shutout record with 13, which the league tweeted out this past weekend. It turns out the 20-year-old already broke the record well before recording his 13th shutout on Friday against La Ronge. His 12th career shutout on Jan. 30 against Kindersley was enough to be an all-time new mark.
This season, Kotchorek's four shutouts lead the SJHL.
With 13 shutouts in 81 career games, the 5'10" goaltender has recorded a shutout once every 6.23 games.
"It's pretty cool," Kotchorek said after practice this week about breaking the record. "It's not the biggest stat that I look forward to. I take pride in the wins. But it's kind of cool to be able to break that record. I've got to give credit to the defence in front of me as well."
With Kotchorek on the North Stars roster the past three seasons, the team posted a combined record of 120-29-5-2, and they're well on their way to winning their third consecutive division title.
So his point about the strong defence in front of him should be taken into account when it comes to the record.
After all, shutouts are not just an individual accomplishment, but a team one too.
"Our 'D' have always down a good job of forcing them wide and not giving them good quality chances," Kotchorek said. "So a lot of shots come from the outside and that really helps me out."
But to give all the credit to those in front of Kotchorek would be wrong, according to North Stars head coach Brandon Heck.
Keep in mind, this is a goalie that has had three different head coaches during his North Stars tenure and has never even had the luxry of being a full-time starter (imagine how many career shutouts he would have if he had not been splitting starts his entire career).
"A smart hockey guy will see how good he is with his rebounds and credit him for not getting as many shots compared to other goalies who spray out rebounds," Heck said. "You can see why he's broken these records. He puts in the work. One of the first ones here every morning... he competes hard, always; he's so fiery. He wants it as much as anyone. He deserves it. He flat out deserves it."
North Stars defenceman Troy Gerein, also in his final season of junior, played with Kotchorek in peewee, as well the past three seasons on the North Stars.
He said Kotchorek has consistently been told he's too small to be a goalie at the next level.
"Oh yeah, his whole life he's been looked at as 'too small,' " Gerein said. "I always thought he was awesome and deserves it. He works his bag off. He may be small but he's quick. He's good at what he does."
The consistency is something Gerein said he feels Kotchorek has improved on as he's gotten older.
"If he kind of has an off-game, then the next game you know he's going to be solid," Gerein said. "I think he's kind of like me. Don't like to lose and basically will do everything it takes just to get the two points. It's not even playoffs and every game still matters, that's kind of his mindset too."
As a smaller goalie, Kotchorek said the biggest difference is he has to be quicker.
"You've got be quick and be able to get to your feet," he explained. "Not being down on your knees all the time really helps.
"A bigger goalie has to make himself small to cover the net and not be too big, and a smaller goalie has to do the opposite."
Despite Kotchorek proving doubters wrong his entire life, he's still looking for that coveted post-secondary scholarship.
Kotchorek said winning a second straight championship would certainly help his cause in that regard.
"That's pretty much my main focus right now," he said. "Helping this team win the league and hopefully carry that on to the RBC [Cup]."
On Twitter: @NathanKanter11
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