By Randy Russon
He stacks the pads favourably with other masked marvels who have stopped pucks for junior hockey teams on both the Ontario and Michigan sides of Sault Ste. Marie.
To be sure, Tyler Marble of the North American Hockey League's Soo Eagles has ability, potential and character that are right up there with what two other goaltending sensations -- Kevin Hodson and Ryan Miller -- displayed during their junior days in Sault Ste. Marie.
Hodson backstopped the Soo Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League to a Memorial Cup championship in 1993 before being on two Stanley Cup winners with the Detroit Red Wings during a six-year National Hockey League career.
Miller, on the other hand, apprenticed in the NAHL with the erstwhile Soo Indians from 1997 to 1999 before going on to play three seasons at the Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association level with the Michigan State Spartans and then moving up to the NHL, where he is now in his 10th season with the Buffalo Sabres.
As for Marble, the 1992 birth year puckstopper has parlayed what has been an outstanding 2012-2013 season to date with the NAHL Eagles into a full-ride, Division 1 scholarship at Colorado College, which for years has been a Western Collegiate Hockey Association contender and one of the better programs in the nation under head coach Scott Owens.
Owens has been at Colorado College since 1999 and has amassed a .614 winning percentage during that time.
Marble will join the Tigers of Colorado College effective the 2013-2014 season as a freshman. Colorado College does return two goalies next season but neither of them is on full scholarship and Marble will get a chance to compete for the starting job with the departure of graduating senior Joe Howe.
Having just recently de-commited from the Division 1, Lake Superior State Lakers, Marble quickly become a hot commodity on the NCAA market.
Several Division 1 schools contacted Marble's dad, Bernie, and family advisor David Maciuk. But ultimately, the 6-foot-1, 180 pound puckstopper from Howell, Michigan decided on Colorado College, making his decision last week.
"I had a chance to talk to their coaches in person and on the phone and they set up a conference call that included my parents. At the end of the day they made me an offer I couldn't refuse," said Marble, a personable, well-grounded individual who is known as much for his character and team commitment as his hockey-playing ability.
"To get a guaranteed, full-ride scholarship from one of the top, most-respected Division 1 programs in the country and to be told I will have the chance to compete for the starting goaltending job is everything I could ask for," added Marble, who plans to major in Business Marketing at Colorado College. "Colorado College plays against some of the best schools in the country and has sent so many players to the NHL. This is such a great feeling to be going there."
With a personal record of (28-7-3) that includes (five) shutouts, a goals against average of (2.24) and a save percentage of (.942), Marble has the Eagles in first place in the North Division of the NAHL with four games to go in the regular season.
The humble youngster was quick to thank Eagles coach Bruno Bragagnolo and his teammates for playing a major role in his success thus far this season.
"Bruno's a great coach and great person who has supported me, shown so much faith in me and helped me elevate my game. He's played a big part in me getting this opportunity at Colorado College as have my teammates. Without my teammates blocking shots and playing hard in front of me, I wouldn't have had the kind of season I have had so far," Marble added.
"I also want to also thank my parents and grandparents for being such a wonderful support system. And I want to thank you for always writing such good things about me," Marble continued.
Despite knowing that he is headed off to Colorado College after this season, Marble said his commitment to the Eagles and Sault Ste. Marie is far from over.
"I owe it to the organization, my teammates and myself to try to win the North Division, have a great playoff and hopefully move on to the Roberston Cup. We are a team and I will battle for them as they have battled for me," Marble said evenly.
Bragagnolo, the Eagles coach and general manager, can't say enough about Marble.
"As a goalie, he is always working on his game in practice. He's focused, he works hard and is a team leader. The good goalies are the ones who win games for you on their own and I would say that Tyler has stolen at least a half a dozen games for us that we probably shouldn't have won. As an organization, we are very proud of Tyler," said Bragagnolo.
Marble joins two other Eagles who have Division 1 commitments. 1992 birth year centre Jared VanWormer (Ferris State) and 1995 birth year winger Denver Pierce (Northern Michigan) are the others.