When Notre Dame lost to eventual national champion Denver in the NCAA Frozen Four back on April 6, Cal Petersen probably figured his season was over.
It turned out that the junior goaltender still had quite a few lessons to learn in 2016-17.
Petersen was named as the third goaltender on the U.S. Men’s National Team for the IIHF Men’s World Championship currently underway in Cologne, Germany, and Paris, France, and the 22-year-old from Waterloo, Iowa, has spent the past couple of weeks practicing and learning from NHL goaltenders Jimmy Howard and Connor Hellebuyck.
“It’s been going really well,” Petersen said. “We have an awesome group of guys in the locker room. They’ve really helped taking in the new guy and everybody’s come together really fast, so that’s been fun and really cool to see. And to have a chance to practice and play with guys of that talent is really cool, is a huge opportunity, and I’m just trying to soak it all in right now.”
While Petersen has not yet dressed for a game through Team USA’s first four contests, and isn’t expected to unless there’s an injury, just being on the ice and facing shots from NHL players has been a tremendous learning process. So has getting the chance to observe and bond with experienced netminders like Howard and Hellebuyck.
Both also played college hockey (Howard with Maine and Hellebuyck with UMass-Lowell) and have played in previous World Championships — Howard in 2012 and Hellebuyck in a bronze medal performance in 2015. And they are now established NHL regulars, with Howard having just completed his eighth full season with the Detroit Red Wings, while Hellebuyck has played the last two years with the Winnipeg Jets.
“For me, it’s just looking at how they prepare, how they play, how they practice, just trying to look at how detailed they are with their habits,” Petersen said of his accomplished teammates. “The way that they approach the game is really cool and their work ethic in practice, so I’m just trying to soak up every piece of information and working with our goalie coach [Seth Appert] afterwards is really beneficial, too.
“[Hellebuyck] has been super helpful in helping me adjust and showing me the ropes a little bit and how things work. And also having a veteran guy like Jimmy Howard there is something that’s really cool, too — an experienced, established NHL goaltender, to be on the same ice as him is really very special.”
While Petersen may not get the chance to dress for a game, being asked to be part of the team is an honor in itself.
“I think historically, we’ve always tried to bring prospects in the number three role to the team, and also guys that, looking ahead, you feel like there’s potential for them to be more involved in national team settings as one of the guys,” Jim Johannson, assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey and part of the management group for the U.S. Men’s National Team. “It’s three more weeks of hockey for him, around other players, so you hope they absorb things over the course of that time.
“You never know what happens. Are we comfortable with him as a guy that could play here? Yeah, or he wouldn’t be here. But ideally, it’s set up for him to learn from two guys who have played both at the NHL and at the World Championships in the past, and also for us to get a chance to be around him as a player and as a kid for the three weeks of the tournament and just build that into his playing experience and start something more with USA Hockey.”
Petersen’s performance this season made him a logical choice to fill that role for Team USA, as he enjoyed another outstanding year for the Fighting Irish, registering a 23-12-5 record while earning First Team Hockey East honors. He finished with a 2.22 goals-against average and ranked third in Hockey East and 11th in the nation with a .926 save percentage, while his six shutouts tied for the NCAA lead.
One year after earning Notre Dame’s Monogram Club Most Valuable Player Award, Petersen, who has started 90 straight games in the Irish crease (the fourth-longest streak in NCAA history), shared the same award this season with forward Anders Bjork, who is also in Germany playing on Team USA.
The Buffalo Sabres’ fifth-round draft choice in 2013 (129th overall), Petersen is still in the process of determining whether he is going to turn pro or return for his senior year.
“I haven’t decided that yet,” he said. “I’m giving this opportunity as kind of a big measuring stick to see where I match up and see if I can be successful and compete at this level, so this is a huge opportunity for me to help clear up any questions I would have had about what to do for next year.”
This is actually Petersen’s second opportunity to pull on a Team USA jersey, having also participated in the World Jr. A Challenge tournament in 2013. He won all three games he played in, including a 16-save, 4-1 victory over Russia in the championship game.
“I couldn’t be more proud, obviously, to represent the USA, especially on a stage like this, and only having had one experience previously with it,” Petersen said. “I’m just super grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the team, for me to grow, and any chance that you can represent the USA, it’s kind of a no-brainer to do.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
|May 2||Italy (exh.)||W, 5-2||Agora Arena||Milan, Italy|
|May 5||Germany||L, 1-2||LANXESS Arena||Cologne, Germany|
|May 7||Denmark||W, 7-2||LANXESS Arena||Cologne, Germany|
|May 8||Sweden||W, 4-3||LANXESS Arena||Cologne, Germany|
|May 10||Italy||W, 3-0||LANXESS Arena||Cologne, Germany|
|May 13||Latvia||W, 5-3||LANXESS Arena||Cologne, Germany|
|May 14||Slovakia||W, 6-1||LANXESS Arena||Cologne, Germany|
|May 16||Russia||W, 5-3||LANXESS Arena||Cologne, Germany|
|May 18||Finland (quarterfinal)||L, 0-2||LANXESS Arena||Cologne, Germany|