The North American Hockey League (NAHL) has announced that Wenatchee Wild goaltender Robert Nichols has been named the Brian’s Custom Sports NAHL Goaltender of the Month for January. Nichols, 19, posted a 4-2-0 record in six games played during the month of January. Nichols (5’11/180) also posted three shutouts during the month and stopped 129 of a possible 136 shots, which was good for a 94.9% save percentage and a goals against average of just 1.18. “Our goaltending has been a big factor in our success this year and Robbie has been a big part of that,” said Wenatchee head coach John Becanic. “He consistently gives us a chance to win every game and his competitiveness is something that is a huge asset for him. His work ethic and drive is based upon one thing, winning. That is something you love to see and what separates good goalies from great goalies.”
Nichols posted three shutouts in a span of four starts. He posted shutouts in back-to-back starts in Dawson Creek back on January 13th and 15th, earning him the NAHL’s #1 star that week. He then posted a shutout in his final start in January back on January 28th, a 2-0 win over the Kenai River Brown Bears. Those three shutouts during the month moved Nichols into a 1st place tie in NAHL shutouts with seven so far this season. “I think it is more a reflection of the team than it is an individual,” said Nichols. “My teammates allow me the opportunity to be successful on the ice because there is such an attention to detail, especially defensively. We don’t give up a lot of chances, so I just try and remained focused make sure I am keeping us in the game.”
Nichols allowed just three goals in each of his two losses during the month and he hasn’t allowed more than four goals in a game this season. It is a big reason why Nichols currently leads the NAHL in both goals against average (1.49) and save percentage (94.2%) this season. Half of Nichols 14 wins this season have been shutouts and despite splitting time this season with fellow Wild goaltender Greg Lewis (who previously won October’s NAHL goalie of the month), Nichols has managed to post an impressive 14-3-3 record so far this season.
Becanic made it clear at the start of the season he would platoon both Nichols and Lewis, with each starting every other game. True to his word, that trend has continued all season long and one that he plans to continue into the 2012 Robertson Cup Playoffs. “It makes it really easy on a coach when both goalies have played the way they have. There is no goalie controversy here because we feel very fortunate to have goalies of Robbie (Nichols) and Greg’s (Lewis) caliber and both are capable of winning us a game on any given night,” said Becanic. “Both push each other to be better every day in games and in practice, and that type of competition and respect among teammates is something that fuels them.”
Nichols sees it the same way as his coach, “It is easier on us knowing we only are usually playing one game a weekend. It allows us to prepare better and have the proper mindset going into each game,” said Nichols. “It is also good for the team because they know that either one of us can win the game, so it doesn’t matter who starts in goal.”
Nichols came to the Wild after playing the last two seasons for the Colorado Thunderbirds Midget Major Tier I team. He signed a tender with the Wild last season, which ultimately lead to his spot on the team this season. Prior to playing in Colorado, Nichols was born and grew up playing hockey in Dallas, Texas.
Other goaltenders nominated were (alphabetical): Gabe Antoni, Springfield Jr. Blues – Tommy Burke, Bismarck Bobcats – Alex Fons, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Connor Hellebuyck, Odessa Jackalopes – Tony Kujava, Janesville Jets – Ken MacLean, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings - Jacob Meyers, Alexandria Blizzard – Anthony Stolarz, Corpus Christi IceRays – Mike Taffe, Amarillo Bulls – Peter Traber, Topeka RoadRunners.
Previous 2011-12 Brian’s NAHL Goaltender of the Month winners - September 2011, Tony Kujava, Janesville Jets – October 2011, Greg Lewis, Wenatchee Wild – November 2011, Jacob Meyers, Alexandria Blizzard – December 2011, Peter Traber, Topeka RoadRunners.
About Brian's Custom Sports
The Official Goaltending Equipment Supplier of the NAHL, Brian's has been a leading Canadian supplier of custom built goal equipment since 1984. The factory is located in Kingsville, Ontario near the Southern tip of Canada with ready access to supplying the North American market. As one of the original and remaining custom goal equipment manufacturers Brian's remains committed to continuing to lead the industry with exceptional design and quality. Visit Brian’s online here.