Posted 278 days ago ago by David Fine
Kearney, Neb. – Goaltender Jake Kielly became the Storm’s steady rock in 2015-16, leading Tri-City to its first Clark Cup with arguably two of the greatest goaltending stretches in club history.
In the first run, from December 29 – March 25, the Clarkson commit did not lose in regulation. Next, Kielly was 9-2 in the postseason, amassing a Storm-record 1.64 goals against average and a .950 save percentage.
Despite the “unforgettable” positive memories that culminated in a championship, Kielly said the harder times prepared him for the glorious ones.
“It was tougher in the beginning not being the number-one guy,” Kielly said, referring to the start of the season when he backed up Matt Greenfield. “I felt like I had something to prove to myself, to my family, to all the people that have helped me along and to all the people that doubted me and didn’t think I belonged.”
With the help of his personal mental coach Shaun Goodsell, Kielly explained his thinking approach helped him overcome hardships. He took over the number-one job in early December when Tri-City transferred Greenfield to the BCHL. Kielly’s workload increased and he found a comfortable groove with new backup Dayton Rasmussen, a childhood friend who was also from Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
Kielly says two important moments came in Green Bay on December 28 and 29. Tri-City held the fourth and final Western Conference playoff spot with 28 points entering the weekend.
“I probably had my worst game of the year [on the 28th],” Kielly said. He was pulled for the only time in 48 games, yielding three goals before being yanked early in the second. Tri-City lost, 3-2.
The next night, Rasmussen allowed three goals and was pulled after the first period. Kielly relieved, made 25 straight saves and the Storm earned a point with a 4-3 overtime loss.
“I realized I couldn’t be satisfied and that was the breakthrough moment for me. I had some success before Christmas break and might have thought it was just going to carry over. It was another way of proving to myself I could be here.”
The 6-foot-3, 194 lb. backstopper did not lose another game in regulation until March 25 against Des Moines, a span of 88 days between regulation defeats. The Storm moved into first place and won the regular season Western Conference championship.
Playoff defeats with Victory Honda in 2014 and in the 2015 Robertson Cup Final with Austin (NAHL) fueled Kielly’s determination. He recorded a Tri-City-record three postseason shutouts and described his final blanking as his “best” Storm game. In a 3-0 win, Kielly made a career-high 41 saves against Waterloo in the Western Conference Finals to give the Storm a 2-1 series edge.
“It was the first game Nico Sturm was out and then Paul Washe went down with an injury,” Kielly analyzed. “I was worried it would affect the chemistry, but it proved we could do it.”
Two weeks after his best game, Kielly hoisted the Clark Cup. As time expired, he looked into Captain Tory Dello’s eyes amid flying equipment and 4,088 screaming fans at the Viaero Center.
“We knew how much it meant to him,” said Kielly, explaining how happy he was for the third-year defenseman.
Kielly said he will carry this season’s lessons to northern New York next season for his freshman year at Clarkson.
“It proved that I could do it, being able to finally win it and join an elite group of goalies that won it in the past. It is a feeling I will probably never get over.”
Tri-City Storm season tickets are available for 2016-17 and can be purchased by calling the Viaero Center Box Office at 308-338-8011.