The plan worked so well last year, why not try it again?
The Moose Jaw Warriors announced Wednesday that they had acquired overage goaltender Connor Ungar and 18-year-old goaltender Justin Maric from the Red Deer Rebels in exchange for 18-year-old netminder Kyle Kelsey and a pair of future draft picks.
The deal is similar to the off-season trade last summer that brought 20-year-old netminder Carl Tetachuk to the Warriors, with that move paying huge dividends as Tetachuk provided Moose Jaw with key minutes and impressive play in net as 16-year-old Jackson Unger developed his game.
And before we go any further, yes, general manager Jason Ripplinger has talked to the coaches about making sure they have the ‘a’ or ‘e’ correct when putting together line-ups next season.
All joking aside, the deal is as much about support and positive relationships as anything else for the Warriors, especially seeing how well a seasoned veteran like Tetachuk worked with Unger last season.
“Jackson coming in as a 17-year-old goalie and being the goalie of the future, I thought he needed a security blanket,” Ripplinger said. “Sometimes with a young guy if things are going bad it’s good to have somebody over your shoulder to help you out. And if we get into injury problems like we did last year a little bit or when Jackson left for the U17s, we had to scramble to find a goalie, we’ll have Maric in the system, too. So we’re thinking it’ll be a really good situation.”
Ungar had a stellar season with the Red Deer Rebels in 2021-22, putting together a 21-9-1-0 record in 34 games while finishing with a 2.43 goals against average and .911 save percentage.
Just as importantly, he had little difficulty splitting time with former AAA Warriors standout Chase Coward in the Red Deer net through the season.
“I’ve done my research on Connor and a lot of people said he’s a lot like Carl,” Ripplinger said. “He’ll be there to help [Unger] out if things are going bad and vice versa. Jackson and Carl meshed very well as teammates and we’re hoping for the same here, where even if things are going bad for Connor, Jackson will be there for him, too.”
Maric played with Edmonton’s CAC Canadians 18U AAA team last season and had a 6-10-6 record with a 3.40 GAA. The season prior he played with OHA Edmonton U15 Prep and had an 11-3-1 record to go along with a 2.37 GAA and .915 save percentage.
“He’s going to come in and battle as well, and he gives us some other options,” Ripplinger said. “You can never have enough depth among goaltenders, and if one goalie ends up getting hurt we know we’re going to have someone else around who can step in.”