Grant Rollheiser sat in the stands at Prospera Centre last Saturday night, watching Daniel Chenard in the Chilliwack Chiefs net and he thought to himself, ‘Daniel is dialed in.’
“You can tell when a goalie looks really confident,” said Rollheiser, a Chilliwack native who serves as the Chiefs goalie coach. “It’s not even so much when they’re making saves, but the body language away from the play as well. Between whistles and that sort of thing.
“He’s making good saves looking really easy and he was there when the team needed him most, making a couple huge saves in the third period.”
The 19 year old is certainly ‘in the zone’ lately, looking more and more like the guy who won Top Goalie honours at last spring’s RBC Cup. Chenard stopped 25 of 27 pucks in a 3-2 win over the Vees.
Over his last eight starts his save percentages have been .941, .905, .840, .939, .964, .903, .926 and .926. The one blip there was a 4-3 home loss to Coquitlam Jan. 23. Otherwise he’s been locked in.
“Getting feedback from him, when he first came back he was honest with everyone that it (the hip) was bugging him a little bit,” Rollheiser noted. “I can’t say for sure what Daniel is feeling now, but when I watched him Saturday and in the last few games, I definitely can’t see any signs that it’s slowing him down.”
And Chiefs fans are breathing a collective sign of relief.
When Mathieu Caron went down with a torn ACL in late November, Chenard was still rehabbing from a hip injury. And when the Quebec kid did return, he was shaky.
His first five games saw him post save percentages of .762 (ouch), .727 (ouch), .864, .857 and .897. and a promising season for the Chiefs was in danger of going up in smoke.
But Rollheiser, a former Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick and four year NCAA netminder at Boston University, said that early troubles were to be expected.
“He’s really strong mentally and he’s got a great work ethic, and we talked about how it wasn’t going to happen overnight where he could step onto the ice and be right back to where he was last year,” Rollheiser said. “The only thing you can do is stick to the program and keep believing in yourself and you’re eventually going to get that confidence back.
“He knows how good he is and it was all about putting in the work and trusting the process. I don’t think anybody had any doubt he could get back to where he is now.”
Chenard is lucky to have Rollheiser to lean on.
The 29 year old is a busy realtor these days, but he’s on the ice for at least one practice a week to help with technical things, and he watches every home game he can.
Rollheiser makes himself available to chat anytime Chenard or backup goalie Nolan Hildebrand need an ear, a luxury not every BCHL netminder has.
“It’s been a blast for me, and it’s nice to be part of a team again,” said Rollheiser, who retired two seasons ago after spending 2015-16 with the ECHL’s Wichita Thunder. “I’m there to give them moral support and someone to talk to. I watch video with them from time to time and give them little tips and pointers.
“Most of it is sitting and chatting about how the games went and what they’re feeling, because I played in the BCHL too (2007-08 Trail Smoke Eaters), so I’ve been in their shoes.”
Hildebrand has become a forgotten man lately, only playing three times since Christmas. But the 20 year old Summerland native came though big-time when Caron went down, winning games and buying time for Chenard to get back.
Now that he’s back to playing sparingly, Rollheiser’s been able to help him stay sharp.
“I’ve experienced what he’s experiencing now when I played college hockey, and it’s definitely not easy,” Rollheiser said. “It’s making the most of your time when you get the opportunities, and the way you do that is work your butt off in practices.
“Treat practices like they’re your games and Nolan does a good job with that. He’s super competitive and that’s what I love about him.”