It’s been an up and down season for Nolan Kent, but the Spruce Grove Saints goalie is feeling pretty good standing tall right now in the crease.
The Chestermere native has backstopped the Saints to the AJHL final against the Okotoks Oilers, and given them a 2-0 lead after back-to-back overtime wins on the road April 13-14.
For a player who spent a few months rehabbing a knee injury this season, Kent is feeling great about how things have turned out in his second AJHL campaign.
He started out hot this season, putting up excellent numbers until going down with a torn meniscus during a game on Oct. 29. The injury required surgery, and it wasn’t until February that Kent could return to action.
During that time he still travelled with the team, doing stats and helping with video, which is tough for a competitor like him, but it did give him a new perspective on his team.
“It was a little frustrating at points because I wanted to be out there playing,” Kent said. “I didn’t want to rush things and risk doing further damage and extend the period that you are out. It was a good and bad thing. I learned some things but I was getting a little bored just watching all the time I guess.”
“You try not to take it for granted being out that long. You can only play in this league for a certain amount of years. You have to make the most of every day. You need to work hard every day because something more serious could happen.”
Things have worked out very well for Kent in the playoffs. The Saints swept their first two series and were 10-0 in the post-season after Games 1 and 2 of the final. They have their eyes on RBC Cup in Chilliwack, B.C., from May 12-20.
“We’ve tried to hold ourselves to a high standard and pursue excellence every day,” Kent said. “Those are the things we talk about in the room. It’s good to see it’s starting to pay off in making the finals. I don’t think we’re done yet.
“We’re a really strong group. We have an awesome defence corps and some forwards that can really put the puck in the net. We are well rounded that way and play a pretty good structure. It’s pretty comforting that way being back there. We’re averaging only about 20 shots against a night. It’s easy that way.”
When the injury first happened, Kent feared the worst because he couldn’t fully straighten his leg due to the displaced meniscus. He felt for sure he did some ligament damage, but when the diagnosis came back, he was relieved his season could be saved.
Still, when he came back he was a bit tentative to go down into the butterfly that caused the injury in the first place. Now that he’s back a couple of months, he’s feeling much more comfortable, and it’s showing.
“It’s hard to be successful if you don’t go down,” Kent said. “I had to ease my way into and not do it all at once. I was skating for about a month before I was allowed to go down into a butterfly. It was a long road to recovery that’s for sure.”