By Bill Potrecz – October 16, 2023
Isaac Gravelle has performed like anything but a rookie in goal for the Port Colborne Sailors this season.
The 16-year-old Fenwick resident has posted a 2.95 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in five games and quickly shown he can play and excel at the junior B level.
“He’s been real good, real solid for us,” Sailors general manager/coach Scott Barnes said. “He’s been everything advertised.”
Barnes admits he may have had a few questions about signing a young netminder, but Gravelle quickly put those doubts to rest.
“As a 16-year-old, you kind of question yourself if you want to do it or not, but knowing his path forward and talking to scouts and agents, it was pretty much a no brainer for us to do,” Barnes said.
Gravelle, who was the first Niagara player chosen in the 2023 Ontario Hockey League draft when he was selected in the second round (27th overall) by the Oshawa Generals, said he’s felt at ease since Day 1 with the Sailors.
“I felt like I had a good summer leading up to it. I felt confident starting and after that it went really well and felt comfortable,” he said. “Not really intimidated.”
Gravelle spent about two weeks with the Generals at their main training camp and loved the experience.
“It was unreal, it was awesome,” he said. “I learned a lot, how to grow and be away from home and the guys helped too because they’re so good.”
Barnes said the Gens have let him play Gravelle as he sees fit.
“They let us do our own thing, they’re not telling us how to play him or anything like that,” Barnes said. “The GM (Roger Hunt) is a real good buddy, an ex-coach of mine and I’ve known him since I was eight so we have good communication. His play is going to determine how much he plays and it will probably be quite a bit.”
Gravelle’s calm demeanour has helped him make the transition from minor hockey.
“The guys are stronger and shoot harder and you have to get used to that,” he said. “I try to go with it and play my game and hope everything goes well.”
Barnes loves Gravelle’s attitude.
“He just exudes confidence. You would never know he’s a 16-year-old. He’s confident handling the puck and making plays. He wants to get better, he works so hard in practice. He’s one of those guys who have it. They want to get to the next level and do whatever they have to do to get there,” Barnes said.
Gravelle’s success comes as no surprise to his former goaltender coach, Jason Barron, now the goaltending development coach with the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League.
“Isaac is a focused athlete with a strong work ethic,” Barron said. “He is detailed in his approach and execution. This has allowed for him to make strong strides developmentally over the last few years leading into his OHL draft. He is off to a great start this season and I am excited to see his game continue to grow and develop throughout his junior hockey career.”
The Sailors are carrying three goaltenders this season — Tucker Adams and Lucas Cardiff-Bilodeau are the others — with the thought Gravelle may get called up to the Gens from time to time.
“We felt we had two No. 1 goalies, it wasn’t going to really matter who was in net. We also signed Lucas and he’s real good. He can play in our league no problem. Signed him as our third goalie knowing Isaac is probably going to be gone for certain lengths of time,” Barnes said.
The Sailors, who dropped a 6-3 decision to Caledonia Friday, host the Corvairs again this Friday followed by another home game Saturday versus Hamilton.
Port resides in fourth place with a solid 6-3-2 record. They recently lost high scoring forward Nathan Kelly with a knee injury.
“We haven’t played with a full lineup. Kelly is out for a lengthy period of time and that’s a key piece for us not to have in our lineup,” Barnes said. “We haven’t really seen our roster. Kind of felt it might be like this in pre-season just seeing how things are building up. It might be a year where we’re banged up and just trying to piece it together as we go.
“We’ve learned guys have to step up and do what they can to keep us in the win column.”
Hamilton 3 Caledonia 2
The Hamilton Kilty B’s rallied from a 2-0 deficit after to hand the Corvairs just their second loss in regulation time Saturday night in Caledonia.
Sami Douglas and Markus Dempewolf gave Caledonia a 2-0 lead before the Kilty B’s responded with three unanswered goals by Benjamin Radley, Joshua Avery and Tyron Fevry.
Gabriel Longo made 29 saves for the win.
Davis Penner faced 33 shots in goal for the Corvairs.
Panthers 4 Junior Canadians 3 OT
Ryan Haeney scored 2:48 into overtime to give the visiting Pelham Panthers the win Sunday night in Welland.
Sam Mudie added two goals and Mitchell Swaine one for the Panthers.
Matthew Coates, Gabriel Bourdos and Adam Bigucolo had the Welland goal.
St. Catharines at Hamilton, 7 p.m.
Fort Erie at St. Catharines, 7 p.m.
Caledonia at Port Colborne, 7:30 p.m.
Welland at Pelham, 7:45 p.m.
Caledonia at Fort Erie, 7 p.m.
Hamilton at Port Colborne, 7:30 p.m.
St. Catharines at Pelham, 2:45 p.m.
Fort Erie at Welland, 7 p.m.
1. St. Catharines 8-1-0-1-17
2. Caledonia 8-2-0-1-17
3. Fort Erie 8-3-0-0-16
4. Port Colborne 6-3-2-0-14
5. Hamilton 5-6-1-0-11
6. Pelham 4-8-0-0-8
7. Welland 2-8-1-0-5
Visit https://www.bpsportsniagara.com for all things sailors this season.