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Roy proving capable in an OHL net with Bulldogs

'I’m seeing pucks from the point pretty well and the defence is doing a great job boxing guys out and letting me see the puck'
Zach Roy in action for the Bulldogs. Photo courtesy Twitter

The Hamilton Bulldogs have a bit of a problem with Zach Roy. But it’s a good problem.

The reigning OHL champions entered this season with an incumbent ready to take over in net, with 19-year-old Nick Donofrio preparing to assume No. 1 duties after serving as a backup through last season’s OHL championship run and Memorial Cup appearance.

Roy, the 17-year-old Callander native drafted in the fourth round by the Bulldogs in 2017, dressed as a backup to Donofrio for the first six games of this season. But when Roy got his chance, a road game on a Sunday afternoon in Windsor, he soaked up 42 saves and calmly backstopped his team to a 5-2 win.

And then he did it again, stopping 29 of 30 shots at home last Saturday in a 4-1 win, getting robbed of a shutout on a lucky bounce on a power play.

“I like how Royzee managed himself in there,” Bulldogs head coach Dave Matsos said after Saturday’s 4-1 win over the Mississauga Steelheads.

“He absorbed everything to allow us to get our changes in the D-zone because every puck getting through to him, he was killing the play for us and allowing us to reset. That’s big. He looked really calm back there. I thought he looked really good.”

When Matsos had to decide on a goaltender the following day, the team’s third game in as many days, it was Roy in net for a second straight day. And he delivered, helping the Bulldogs to a 6-5 overtime win in Oshawa to remain unbeaten at the OHL level.

There is now a competition for the crease in Hamilton and, in addition to his calm demeanour in the crease, Roy’s numbers – .929 save percentage and 2.61 goals-against average compared to Donofrio’s .879 and 3.99 – back a case for a longer look.

“I think it’s a healthy competition,” Matsos said. “I’ve been in situations where the backup – so to speak, if you want to call it that – just wasn’t ready for the league yet but Roy looks like he’s ready for the league. If this is a problem we are going to be faced with, that’s great.”

The five-foot-11 Roy, who came up in the North Bay Trappers minor system and spent last season with Rockland of the CCHL, said he expected he would be able to put some pressure on Donofrio at some point this season, but not this early.

He had a strong training camp and performed well in the pre-season and things have just continued to improve as the season goes on.

“My confidence is pretty high,” he said Saturday. “I’m seeing pucks from the point pretty well and the defence is doing a great job boxing guys out and letting me see the puck.”

Roy was also happy to earn Saturday’s win with his parents, Rod and Rachelle watching from the First Ontario Centre stands, having travelled from North Bay to see the game.

 “They were coming down this weekend anyway, regardless if I was playing or not, but I’m glad they got to see me play,” he said. “It’s awesome. They’ve supported me since I was little and they’re the biggest reason I’m here right now. It’s awesome getting a win for them that they could see in person.”

The first player to congratulate Roy at the final buzzer on Sunday was fellow Callander native Jake Gravelle, with whom he grew up playing on teams with since novice. Add in forwards Dylan D’Agostino and Ben Garagan, both from North Bay, and there are three teammates from “home” who Roy can lean on in his rookie OHL season in Hamilton.

“It’s helped quite a bit,” he said. “Gravelle and D’Agostino, they’re both in school, too. We see each other every day and we’ve all been together since minor novice I think. I’ve known Garagan my whole life, too, so we’ve gelled pretty quickly.

“As soon as I got here, I was made to feel comfortable. It’s not just the North Bay guys, but everyone’s treated me well here. That’s all I can ask for.”

Ken Pagan

About the Author: Ken Pagan

Ken Pagan is a former sports editor, reporter and avid supporter of local sports who lived in North Bay from 2002 to 2012.
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