He was the youngest player on the ice by at least 20 days in every game, but Moose Jaw Warriors prospect Zach Sawchenko, 14, left his mark on the Western Canada Under-16 Challenge Cup in Calgary last month.
Playing in his hometown, Sawchenko backstopped Team Alberta into Sunday’s final against Team BC and was named the Tournament’s top goalie in the process. He posted a 1-1-0-1 record, including a 33-save, 3-0 shutout of Team Saskatchewan to get into the final, had a 1.44 goals against average and a .961 save percentage.
“Team Alberta treated us great and things went really well for me, especially being named to that All-Star team, and I had a blast,” said Sawchenko after returning back to his Midget AAA squad, the Notre Dame Argos on Monday.
“I thought I played really, I really showed guys that even though I’m young, I can still shut the door on guys and make a key save at a key time. Hopefully this will help me get to the next level.”
Team Alberta fell, 9-3, to Team BC in the Gold Medal Game, but Sawchenko says they played their best and competed to the end, “Obviously you want to win, but it just made us stronger in the long run. We’re still proud of what we did and what we accomplished and that’s great.”
Sawchenko, out of the Calgary Royals Bantam AAA program, was the Warriors first pick in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft (2nd round, 33rd pick). He had a solid showing during the Warriors prospects camp, built off that with a strong training camp and finished with a 30-save, 3-1 win in the Warriors pre-season opener against the Swift Current Broncos.
Sawchenko says his experience with the Warriors has really helped him so far this season, especially at the Western Canada Under-16s, “I knew how to handle the pressure was the main thing. I’ve been at that level and especially the WHL because the shots are quick, the plays quick and you can really relate because this is the next level.”
Playing his Midget AAA hockey just down the road from Moose Jaw in Wilcox with the Argos, the Warriors will be able to keep a close eye on their goaltending prospect. Sawchenko didn’t come flying out of the gates with the Argos this season, but clearly turned his game on with Team Alberta.
With the Argos this season, Sawchenko has a 1-5-1 record and 3.86 goals against average with a .8b1 save percentage after seeing close to 27 shots a night in nine games. He says no matter what the score or game setting he’s going to go all-out in that game, “Competing every night, game-in, game-out, trying to get my team a win, which is huge for me. That’s why I play hockey and that’s why I feel that I’m successful because I never give up and just keep fighting.”
Sawchenko has his eyes set on wearing a Warriors’ jersey in the near future, “I’m going to try and make the team as a 16-year-old, but I just have to go out there and do my job. I’ve just got to work hard, keep my fitness up and keep playing my game.”
Sawchenko and the Argos start the week with a 6-6-1-1 record, Wednesday they head to Yorkton coming up on Saturday and Sunday they’ll be in the Battlefords for two games against the Stars.