Scott Ratzlaff was born to be a goalie…or at least he feels that way.
“Ever since I thought about playing hockey, I wanted to be a goaltender,” said the 17-year-old from Irma, who was spectacular for Team Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup at Peavy Mart Centrium.
“I was fascinated by that… the position and I liked the equipment and the role a goalkeeper played with a team.
As a youngster he played, but “around the age of six or seven” picked up the pads and never looked back.
He played his early days in Irma, a town of around 500 people, before developing his game.
He played freshman bantam at Camrose with the Red Wings under head coach Darryl Gagnon, to whom Scott credits much of his early development.
“It was definitely a stepping stone for me,” he said. “I really looked up to Darryl…he was instrumental in my development to where I am today.”
The following season, Scott joined Lloydminster’s U15AAA team where he posted a 2.41 goals-against average and .899 save percentage that caught the attention of the League’s Seattle Thunderbirds. western hockey.
“I was a little surprised they took me,” he said. “I had spoken with a few teams but I didn’t hear much, but it worked. Seattle is a great organization and I was excited to go.
Scott was scheduled to play his first year as a Minor Midget with the Northern Alberta Xtreme, but Covid ruined most of that year.
“We played one game,” he said. “We had a lot of training time and bonded well.”
What he did was get his first taste of WHL action.
“Midway through the season, Thomas Milic was called up to play in this tournament and they called me to replace Jackson Berry,” Ratzlaff explained. “It was a great learning experience. It gave me a chance to learn the ropes and see what I needed to learn to play at this high level. I was lucky to have this opportunity. »
He saw action in three games, posting a solid 2.98 GAA and .867 save percentage and a 1-0-0 record.
This set the stage for his return this season where he started 22 games behind Milic. He had an impressive 2.48 save percentage and .904 save percentage and went 17-2-1.
“It was a great season, the coaches gave me every chance to succeed and I went with it,” he said. “No matter what I try to keep my head down and work as hard as I can because nothing is given to you.
“It doesn’t matter if I have a good game or a bad game, I have to keep a cool head and move on to the next game or the next game.”
This attitude led him to first place with Team Canada.
Head coach Stephane Julien liked what he saw of the central Alberta youngster from the get-go.
“I started scouting him a few months ago and watched him play a bit,” Julien said. “I’ve heard good things about him. He’s a smart kid who gets along with everyone, loves competition and pays attention to the details of the game.
“On the first day of training camp he showed that he wants to be No.1 and he is definitely a No.1. No goals in three games at this level, that’s something special. “
Scott came on halfway through a 6-0 exhibition win over Finland, then backed the Canadians to a 14-0 win over Switzerland and 3-0 over Sweden.
He made several outstanding saves in the match against Sweden, giving Canada first place in Group A and a spot in Friday’s 5 p.m. semifinal against Finland.
It was not easy to stay involved in the game against Switzerland.
“But you have to do it,” he said. “I have a number of ways to stay in the game, including storytelling the play…you always have to be prepared.”
Scott knows a thing or two about the high-level competition having played as a 16-year-old in the Capital City Challenge that included the women’s team of Team Canada.
“They are highly skilled, great to play against,” he said. “It’s amazing how clean their passes were…you really had to stay focused.”
Ratzlaff, six-foot-one, 175 pounds, felt he had a good chance of making Team Canada and is thrilled to have him in central Alberta.
“When I found out it was in Red Deer, I was thrilled to be able to play in front of my friends and family. The fans here are great. Lots of enthusiasm, I enjoyed every minute of it.
He even enjoys showing off his talents to the glut of NHL scouts, general managers and coaches in the stands.
“I try not to focus on outside pressure,” he said. “I try to put that aside and focus on what’s happening on the ice.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate journalist and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org