Fairbanks goalie Nieto makes NCAA DI commitment
December 22, 2015
By Tim O’Donnell, News-Miner
Two years ago, Gavin Nieto took a visit to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
He liked the campus enough that on Monday, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and NAHL goalie committed to play hockey for the Bears next season.
“Not only are they a team on the rise, but the education there was too good to pass up,” Nieto said by cellphone on Monday afternoon.
“It’s got its own campus feel, but it’s right in Providence,” Nieto said.
Nieto is in his first season with the Ice Dogs, of the North American Hockey League. The native of Yorba Linda, California, spent last season with the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets, of the NAHL, and the Dubuque (Iowa) Fighting Saints, of the United States Hockey League.
“He wanted the opportunity to be the No. 1 goalie,” Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said.
Nieto, listed at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, has taken the opportunity to be Fairbanks’ No. 1 goalie and run with it. He leads the NAHL with a 1.74 goals against average and has the sixth-best save percentage at .927. Nieto is 16-3-1 this season and has posted three shutouts in 20 games.
His 16 wins are tied for first in the league.
“He’s a competitor,” Stewart said. “He’s still got a lot of room for improvement.”
Nieto’s performance in net has helped the Ice Dogs (23-4-3) sit atop the Midwest Division standings with 49 points, tied for the most in the league with the Wichita Falls (Texas) Wildcats.
“We have an unbelievable team here,” Nieto said. “They make my job easy.”
Nieto was drafted in second round (42nd overall) by the Ice Dogs in this year’s NAHL Entry Draft in June.
Nieto said he is undecided on what he will major in but is leaning towards a business degree.
Nieto is the second Ice Dog to commit in the last five days. Forward Logan Coomes committed to Merrimack, of Hockey East, on Thursday. The duo join Todd Burgess (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) and Aaron McPheters (Alaska Anchorage) as Ice Dogs who have committed to colleges.
The Bears, who play in ECAC Hockey, 2-7-3 overall this season and 2-5-2 in the ECAC. The Bears have two juniors and one sophomore goalie on the roster but Nieto is looking to make an impact as a freshman next season.
“It’s going to be up to me to take advantage of my opportunities,” Nieto said.
The Bears haven’t finished higher than sixth in the ECAC regular season standings since they finished third in 2003-04.
“Mentally and physically, he’s put himself in position to be impactful right away,” Stewart said.
Also on Monday, Nieto was named the NAHL’s Midwest Division Star of the Week after helping the Ice Dogs sweep the New Jersey Titans on Friday and Saturday in Middletown, New Jersey. Nieto stopped 50 of the 52 shots he saw in the sweep.
Nieto made 22 saves in a 3-1 win on Friday before stopping 28 in a 2-1 win the following night.