(Marc Smith/DiscoverMooseJaw) Adam Evanoff doesn’t want anything handed to him.
With the announcement before training camp that Brody Willms will miss the entire season with a hip injury, that opened the door for Evanoff to be the Moose Jaw Warriors’ starting goaltender this season.
The 18-year-old is heading into his second season with the Warriors, but he doesn’t expect to be just handed the job as the starter.
“Nothing is set in stone yet, I went into the summer with the goal in mind to play more games than I did last year,” said Evanoff. “No matter how many games you play, your mindset has to be the same, you try to win the games that you get put in and earn your teammates and coaches trust.”
Evanoff was solid as a rookie, giving the Warriors — who finished with the best record in the league — a chance to win every time that he was called upon. The Penticton, B.C. product finished with a 15-4-0-1 record in 20 appearances, posting a 2.65 goals against average and a .906 save percentage.
Evanoff said that first season at the major junior level was a great learning experience.
“I learned a lot, it was a good summer reflecting on everything,” he said. “I took a couple of steps back and looked at how much I improved and thinking about all the keys that some mentors gave to me.
“In this league, you’ve got to come ready to play every day, be ready to practice, it’s about functioning whether it’s at your billet house, being prepared and getting lots of sleep because it’s a long season.”
In addition to Evanoff, the Warriors still have three other goalies in camp, 20-year-old invite Brodan Salmond, 17-year-old prospect Ethan Fitzgerald and 16-year-old draft pick Jackson Berry.
Evanoff said there is a different feel coming into camp as the veteran goalie after just being the rookie last season.
“As a second-year guy, you should get more opportunity with the things that you’ve learned, you should be ahead of where you were last year, so this year coming in, I feel confident and I feel ready to take on my role, whatever that may be,” he said.
After losing Willms, the Warriors brought in Salmond to provide some competition for Evanoff, as well as bring more experience between the pipes for the team.
Evanoff said Salmond has been an asset for him already, “He’s been great, he’s been in the league for a long time, so he’s a great mentor for all of the guys here,” he said.
The Warriors will have more than just a different look in net this year with a lot of the team’s scoring up front graduating after last year’s regular-season title season.
While the team is retooling, Evanoff said that he’s excited about the look of the squad so far.
“It’s different, but I like it,” he said. “We’ve got a good group of core guys, we’re a really tight-knit team, so that’s going to help, we’re all going to have each other’s backs on the ice, it’s going to be a good year.”
Despite the changes, Evanoff adds that his expectations for the team won’t be changing as they prepare for the start of the regular season in a few weeks.
“Our expectations for ourselves are really high, so our mentality is the same as last year and we’re going to try to do the best that we can,” he said.
The Warriors continue their preseason on Friday when they battle the Medicine Hat Tigers at Mosaic Place. The second half of the home-and-home goes on Saturday in Irvine, AB.