February 1, 2015
By Derek Holtom
MJHL Web Correspondent
Sometimes recruiting a quality player involves a bit of luck. Okay ─ make that a LOT of luck in the case of Steinbach Pistons’ stand-out goaltender Nick Deery.
Deery is arguably the best goaltender in the MJHL. But on how earth did a kid from La Crosse, Wis., (located approximately half way between Chicago and Minneapolis) end up in the Automobile City of Manitoba?
A phone call.
“The team I was on in the NAHL, they cut me during the summer, but held onto my rights, and they weren’t trading me anywhere, so I really had no choice (but to look north),” said Deery. “So I called up one of my coaches who knew Paul (Dyck), and that’s how I ended up here.”
The NAHL’s loss was Steinbach’s gain.
Dyck, head coach and general manager of the Pistons, said ever since Deery joined the Pistons last season, he has been a leader.
“Nick came to us last year and we knew he had a lot of potential,” said Dyck. “He’s followed it up this year. The best way to describe Nick is that he stops the pucks that he should and gives us a chance to win hockey games every night.
“He also had tremendous habits in practice, and has brought a lot of leadership from the goaltender position as well.”
And Deery’s stellar play this year has led to committing to the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs, an NCAA Division school, for next season. It’s a hockey institution which has produced many NHL alumni over the years, including Brett Hull, Justin Faulk, and former Portage Terriers star Junior Lessard attended the University of Manitoba, and went on to play pro hockey.
“I was really excited – it was a long-time dream and goal, and it came true,” said Deery on his scholarship. “To me it was important that the schooling fit. It just happened to be a school that is close to home, with a good engineering program, which I want to go into. So it was just a perfect for me.”
This year, Deery posted the stats needed to make the jump to the next level.
In 36 starts this year, Deery had the second-best GAA in the league at 2.50 and a save percentage of .911. His three shutouts were also tied for second in the MJHL.
Deery said there was an adjustment period in moving to the MJHL, but once here, he said he couldn’t imagine a better place to play junior hockey.
“If was different, and I wasn’t sure how it would be in my first time playing outside the United States,” he said. “After a month, I absolutely loved it, and this has been one of the best places I’ve played in. This is a great organization, and two years later, I wouldn’t have traded this for anything.”
With his scholarship and future plans set, Deery said there’s only one thing left to do – help drive the Pistons deep into the post season.
“Having the commitment is a big weight off my chest, so now I can focus on helping the team get as far as we can go, and doing everything in my power to help take the team as far as we can go,” he said. “We want to succeed and win a championship.”
That means beating the RBC Cup hosts from Portage, and Deery said he thinks the Pistons can give them a run if they should meet in the playoffs.
“We’ve played them a few times, and if we capitalize on some opportunities we have a good shot,” said Deery. “We hang in there every time we play them, and I think it just comes down to executing the small details, and not making as many mistakes.”