Chilliwack Chiefs netminder knew he’d have to adjust to the speed of the BCHL and the skill of its players. After spending most of the last two years in an Ontario junior B circuit, the 20 year old knew he was in for a big step up in competition.
But if the last month is any indication, the Hamilton native is up to speed, asserting himself as one of the BCHL’s best stoppers.
Sinclair is third in goals-against average (2.56), tied for fourth in wins (15) and seventh in save percentage (.912) despite struggling through some growing pains.
He got his feet wet in September, going 3-2-0 with a .898 SP.
October saw him post a 5-1-2 record with a .870 SP.
But Sinclair seemed to take off when the calendar flipped to November.
The Chiefs started last month on the Island where Sinclair beat the Nanaimo Clippers 6-1 and the Cowichan Valley Capitals 3-1. He made eight starts in November and won six with a sparkling .931 SP.
“I don’t know what happened but lately it’s been pretty good and that’s probably just getting used to the league and getting comfortable with my defencemen,” Sinclair said. “The BCHL was a lot faster and more skilled than my last league, but the big thing I had to adjust to was the amount of traffic and guys going to the net hard.”
“Guys just want to score goals all the time, in the BCHL.”
Sinclair has played a lot.
At one point he was leading all goalies in minutes played. He’s now fourth at 1429, thanks to the presence of Brendan Barry.
At the start of this season his backup was Robert Jacobson, a 19 year old who shut out the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in his first BCHL start.
His second start was an 8-2 loss in Surrey and he never saw live action again, banished to the Alberta Hockey League’s Bonnyville Pontiacs in mid-October.
Barry, a veteran goalie with BCHL experience (including an RBC Cup championship as a the backup for the 2014-15 Penticton Vees) gave Chiefs coach Jason Tatarnic something Jacobson did not, a reliable option when Sinclair needed a break.
Through the first 18 games of the 2016-17 season, Sinclair logged 826 of a possible 1094 minutes.
In November, he played 482 minutes while Barry played 315, and Barry did well, winning three of four games.
“Any goalie likes to play a lot, but it’s also good to get a break once in a while and it’s probably good for the team too,” Sinclair said. “You don’t want a tired goalie in net, right?”
With Sinclair and Barry doing their thing, the Chiefs have seen their goals against drop like a rock.
Only Victoria, Penticton and Wenatchee have been stingier than Chilliwack.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys on our defence and over the last little bit we’ve been talking more about what they’re doing,” Sinclair said. “They’ve responded and it makes life a lot easier than me when they play well.”
“Guys blocking shots and being in the right place, it’s been a total team effort.”
Sinclair and company have just two games left before they depart on a long Christmas break. They have the Surrey Eagles in town Saturday night for a 7 p.m. start at Prospera Centre.
Chilliwack visits Langley Dec. 14 and doesn’t play again until a Dec. 28 home game vs Wenatchee.
l Saturday’s game vs Surrey is Teddy Bear and Toque Toss Night in support of Chilliwack Community Services.
When the Chiefs put the first puck into the Eagle net fans are invited to throw stuffies and toques onto the ice.
Teddy Bears will be available for purchase on the concourse by donation and the special Chiefs/Community Services toque is on sale in the Chiefs store for just $10.
Those needing tickets to the game can get the Chiefs/Community Services package which includes one ticket and one toque for just $20.