Blackfalds goalie Mason Gatz routinely faces shots from players around the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League (AMBHL), but this Saturday, he’ll be up against the league’s best.
Recently, he was named to the Team South roster for the AMBHL’s All Star Game in Fort Saskatchewan Jan. 12.
It was both surprising and welcome news for the Gatz family, especially the 15-year-old goalie himself.
“It was pretty shocking,” he said. “It means a lot…made me push harder in practice.”
Gatz began playing hockey at the age of four in Strathmore. Becoming a goaltender was always part of the plan, in part because he thought it looked cool, but also because his father, Randy, also played between the pipes.
About four years ago, his family made the move to Blackfalds, and both he and his older brother Kayden have has seasons with the Central Alberta Selects Bantam AA team.
Describing his style as hybrid, often on his knees and in a reactive stance as opposed to a blocking one, he says his strength is his agility.
Last year, he posted a 3.81 goals against average, and a .860 save percentage through 16 games for the Selects.
This year, looking for an added challenge, he tried out for the Red Deer Rebels Bantam AAA Chiefs, and became the lone player from Blackfalds or Lacombe to make the team. Through 10 appearances so far, he’s improved to a 2.24 goals against average and a 0.909 save percentage through 10 appearances.
He credits his teammates and the coaching staff – in particular goalie coach Richie Hubbell – but his improvement also comes from his own determination, focus and motivation.
According to his father, he experienced one of the worst seasons any player or team could have two years ago, but never let it deter him from playing hockey.
“Two years ago, when Mason played Pee Wee AA in Lacombe for the Central Alberta Selects, he went through the whole season and did not win a single game. That could have made a lot of kids quit, but it only made him want it more,” he said.
Now, he’s made the AAA team, the AMBHL All Star roster, and has his sights set on hopefully making an appearance at the Alberta Cup.
He’s also hoping to be drafted in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft.
In order to impress those who will make decisions at the draft and in selecting Alberta Cup rosters, he says he’ll have to work on his own consistency moving forward, but that will have to wait until after the All Star game this weekend, which will kick off at 1 p.m. at the JRC Arena.