Palaga takes edge in goaltending battle

By Chad Klassen
September 13, 2017 - 4:39pm Updated: September 13, 2017 - 6:13pm

KAMLOOPS — Max Palaga is fighting for the No. 2 job to back up Dylan Ferguson, and if his preseason is any indication, he may be well on his way to securing it.

Palaga leads the Western Hockey League this preseason with a 0.63 goals-against average in 96 minutes of action.

"I find I've been tracking the puck very good," said Palaga. "Just sticking to my habits whether I get scored on or anything starts going wrong, just sticking to my habit. That always leads to success."

Hay has liked what he's seen from Palaga.

"He's just been really consistent, he's been steady," noted Hay. "He's been really square to the puck, he hasn't given up. He's looked comfortable in the net, that's the main thing. He hasn't looked uncomfortable."

Palaga also boasts the second-best saves percentage at .969% in two games against Kelowna.

"Yeah a little bit," said Palaga when asked if he's surprised about his stats. "First couple full starts this year. The guys have been playing great. No problems, making it easy, so it's not hard in front of these guys."

Hay said the 17-year-old's one appearance last year in net, when Connor Ingram was at the world junior tournament, has served him well coming into this year.

"He's had a good summer of training and he's come in and he's had a real good training camp, played well in his exhibition games," noted Hay. "We think we'll probably split the two goalies up in Prince George. Give them both the opportunity and hopefully Ferguson will be back sometime next week."

Palaga is still in competition with 19-year-old Kyle Dumba if you ask coach Hay, and Friday's final preseason game against the Cougars could very well determine who wins the backup job.

But if it comes down to it, Hay admitted he would lean to go younger.

"That will be part of the decision for sure, especially if they're even," said Hay about the two-year gap in age between Palaga and Dumba. "Fergie's only 19 as well, so we want to bring somebody here that can step in the line-up if Fergie had a tough day or tough game."

For Palaga, he just wants to be part of the team, regardless of what they choose.

"It's been a dream to make this team and I'm going to do whatever I can, whether I'm not getting any starts, just practicing, just making the team better by giving 100 per cent."


Blazers wrap up pre-season, then come roster decisions