Ty Taylor has no problem protecting the 72-inch wide by 48-inch high dimensions of a hockey goal area for the Vernon Vipers.
He likes the small surface and found a similar love of the University of New Hampshire when in Durham on a flydown a couple of weeks ago. He toured the campus, met a few ex-Vipers like Dylan Chanter, Joe Sacco and Michael McNicholas, and soon committed with the Hockey East Huskies for next NCAA season.
“I loved it; it was awesome,” said Taylor, of New Hampshire. “There is nothing I can complain about. It’s a smaller campus, but there’s a lot in it. It’s not all spread out. I like that.”
Taylor, 18, of Richmond, also toured the Boston University Terriers’ compound and listened to scholarship offers from the Arizona State Sun Devils in Tempe.
Associate Wildcat coaches Mike Souza and Glenn Stewart both spent time courting the 6-foot-3 200-pounder on visits to Vernon. Souza takes over from current head coach Dick Umile, in his 27th season, next year.
“They have one freshman (San Jose Sharks’ draft Mike Robinson), who has got in six games) and they expect me to come in and fight for the job,” said Taylor. “I’m going to work my hardest and hope I win it.”
Taylor enjoyed a phenomenal sophomore season and was Wednesday honoured as winner of the league’s Top Goaltender Award. Taylor and teammate Anthony Yamnitsky also took the Wally Forslund Trophy (Top Goalie Tandem, 1.98 combined GAA).
Unlike last year, the Goaltending Award was voted on this time. In the past, it simply went to the goalie with the lowest goals-against average and 1,000 minutes played.
Taylor posted a 22-5-3 record with a minuscule 1.83 GAA and .932 save percentage.
“I’m really happy with the award,” said the humble Taylor, who sees the Vipers going on a lengthy playoff run. “I’m really thankful for my teammates, who helped me out all year. Anthony and I have a really good rapport. We push each other and support each other. He’s a good friend.”
Taylor also tied a league record with seven shutouts, joining Michael Garteig and Brad Thiessen. Garteig posted seven shutouts in the 2010-11 season with the Powell River Kings, while Thiessen had seven clean sheets in the 2005-06 season split between Merritt Centennials and Prince George Spruce Kings.
Taylor said a second go-round in the best Junior A league in the country helped him “know what to expect and understand what’s going to happen.”
He added: “Knowing the league a bit better and having a little more confidence helps you. It’s going to be the same in college. I know, if you have a bad night in this league, you’re gonna probably lose.”
Viper head coach Mark Ferner knew he was getting a big, athletic goaltender when he recruited him. He also got a level-headed, competitive young man from a good family.
“He’s got all the make-up to be a good college goalie,” said Ferner. “Being chosen Best Goaltender is well deserved. I know the group in front of him have done a good job, but they (Taylor and Yamnitsky) did their part too.”
The second-place Vipers open the playoffs tonight against the seventh-place Salmon Arm Silverbacks at Kal Tire Place. Game 2 goes Saturday back in Vernon. Games 3 and 4 go Tuesday and Wednesday at the Shaw Centre.
The Vipers won the season series 5-1 and Ferner expects the Gorillas to bring their A game as usual. The Snakes went so hard in practice earlier week, Ferner made Wednesday’s ice time optional.
“We’ve gone over video and we’re prepared. I think rest is the most important thing right now.”
Salmon Arm has two former Vipers in d-man Sol Seibel and centre Brandon Whistle, who finished with eight goals in 18 games.
A fifth game, if required, would go Friday, March 9, in Vernon.