Stolarz Battles For NHL RoleDec 31, 2020
By Joe Spurrier/SanDiegoGulls.com
For the first time in 295 days, competitive hockey returned to Great Park Ice and FivePoint Arena.
The Anaheim Ducks officially kicked off their training camp at the team's practice facility, where 18 former Gulls - including 10 forwards, six defensemen and two goalies - hit the ice in Irvine vying for roster spots.
One of those players is netminder Anthony Stolarz, who looks to carry over the confidence he gained with the Gulls in an effort earn the backup role in Anaheim. The 6-6, 210-pound backstop had a career year with San Diego in 2019-20, setting career bests goals-against average (2.66) and save percentage (.922), and leading AHL goalies in assists (4) and saves (1,211).
“Just going out there and showing I can play at high level for an extended period of time,” said Stolarz on how he can use last season to his advantage. “I think I played around 40 games last year so I think that was the biggest thing for me – proving to myself that I can handle the workload and I can still be a dominant player in the AHL. My confidence was sky high last year so I’m going to take that, run with it this year and fight for a job here.”
Stolarz competition in camp is veteran goaltender Ryan Miller, who recently re-signed with the Ducks. He's also a role model, an American-born netminder Stolarz admits he admired in his youth.
“Growing up, you think back to that gold medal game with Team Canada,” added Stolarz. “Just watching (Miller), he was someone you kind of idolized growing up, just being an American-born goalie with the success that he’s had. Having all this experience in the league, I kind of want to pick his brain a little bit. At the same time, there’s that competition aspect. We’re both going for the same job so when we get on the ice, it’s me versus him, just kind of battling each other.”
Fans, players and coaches patiently waited in an offseason that felt like it would never end. Now, coaches attempt to prepare players for a season unlike any other. One of the difficulties the team faces is getting a glimpse of how players altered their game over an offseason that lasted nearly a year without any preseason games.
With a slightly more limited opportunity to prove they deserve a spot on the Ducks roster, every moment on the ice matters that much more for players this year. As 2020 comes to a close, players look to turn the page to tomorrow as they kick off 2021 with day two of training camp.