Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Quinte
Goaltender Ethan Taylor spent most of the 2020-21 hockey season at home in Trenton waiting for his opportunity to return to the crease of the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds.
There was glimmer of hope at times, including one brief trip to Sault Ste. Marie, but it wasn’t to be.
“When things were starting to open up again, we had a couple skates up there at the public rink, not our actual home rink there, but I was only there for about three or four days before they cancelled everything again and closed the facilities again,” Taylor said.
“It was really difficult because we kept getting an estimated (time) when we would be back to hockey and they kept pushing it back and back. Eventually it got to the point where it seemed like there would be no hockey, but they kept trying to make it work so it was definitely a tough spot to be in. Everyone wants to play, but this wasn’t working out.”
That turned out to be the end of his OHL tenure after spending the previous two seasons with Greyhounds.
Now in his overage year for junior eligibility, Taylor opted to stay close to home. Very close to home, in fact, with the Trenton Golden Hawks of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
“I live about five minutes from the rink,” Taylor said. “It’s awesome to be playing at home. Growing up I’d go to the games on a Friday night when they were in town and it was always something I wanted to be a part of one day. It’s pretty exciting to put the jersey on and play in front of my parents, my friends and represent the team.”
It was in Trenton when Taylor was playing house league hockey that he tried goaltending for the first time. He didn’t have a choice.
“We had to share the goalie position. A different player was goalie every week,” Taylor recalled. “They just picked my name one night and it was just a great experience and I wanted to keep doing it. It was nice to see I got success with that later on. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
The position no longer had to be shared. It was his for the taking.
“Luckily I was the only kid who liked to play goalie on my team so I got to keep playing goalie and the next year I went to the Trenton rep team,” Taylor said. “I wanted to be a goalie when I was younger because I wasn’t the greatest skater, but I loved playing hockey.”
Taylor played rep hockey locally for the Quinte West Hawks (now the Quinte West Golden Hawks) and the Quinte Red Devils. Playing AAA hockey with the Red Devils led to him becoming a ninth round pick for the Greyhounds in 2017.
“It was huge because you would be travelling to Toronto and other big communities for tournaments and you would have really good looks from teams, scouts, agents, everything you can think of,” Taylor said.
His teammates at the U16 level with the Red Devils included current Trenton teammates Dalton Bancroft and Jake Campbell as well as opponents from the Wellington Dukes Emmet Pierce and Graham Dickerson.
Other teammates include Zach Uens, who is having a great NCAA season at Merrimack College, Cameron Supryka, who’s in his third OHL season now with the Guelph Storm, and local junior C players Logan White (Napanee), Bailey Matthews (Picton), Derek Vos (Picton) and more.
“It’s good to everyone you grew up playing with still finding success,” Taylor said.
Taylor has formed a great tandem in Trenton this season with William Nguyen as the Golden Hawks, which won nine straight to start the campaign, still lead the OJHL’s East Division with a 19-8-0-2 record and 40 points.
Taylor knew there were high expectations as the team was built to make a strong push to not only win the OJHL title, but a national championship as well. Most of the players were unfamiliar with one another when they came together, but those early wins including some come-from-behind victories, provided a great bonding experience for the group.
“At the start of the season, all of the guys had been together for maybe a month,” Taylor said. “It was an incredible experience to battle and grind with those guys.”
This season Taylor has posted a 9-3-0-1 record with a 2.86 goals-against average and .906 save percentage. He’s enjoyed working with goalie coaches in the past like Kory Cooper, who is now the general manager of the Kingston Frontenacs, and Dan Stewart, formerly of the Cobourg Cougars and Soo Greyhounds, who is now the goaltending development coach for the St. Louis Blues.
Developing as a goaltender requires not only a lot of on-ice work, he said, but time spent in the gym, stretching and working on hand-eye coordination.
“Ultimately it just comes down to sticking with it and it’s a process,” Taylor said. “If it was easy, everyone would do it and everyone would find success in it so just countless hours of goalie skates and obviously the time in the gym you spend doing workouts and goalie-specific workouts.”
Asked the toughest shooter he’s faced in any league, Taylor named his teammate Bancroft.
“He has a sneaky little shot, comes off his toe and you never know where it’s going to go,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a guessing game and we have a lot of fun at practice with it. I’m glad it’s in practice and he’s not on the other team shooting on me.”
Taylor is grateful for the support from Golden Hawks fans, whether that’s at the Duncan McDonald Memorial Gardens or just being greeted by them when out in the city.
The regular season has been extended until April, but Taylor wants to keep playing as long as possible.
“I definitely think we’re capable of going the distance,” he said. “There’s obviously really good teams in the league, but we’re right there with them. Hockey’s a crazy game where anyone can beat anyone on any given night and I think we are prepared for a long season.”
Taylor isn’t sure yet what the future holds for him beyond this season, but one thing is for sure.
“Regardless of what it is, I want to keep playing hockey,” he said.