The Holland River Bandits seem to have found the solution to their goaltending issues in the form of 18-year-old John Posler.
After starting the season with the NWO Grrrowl (now Michigan Grrrowl), the Traverse City, Mich., native is now playing closer to home with the River Bandits and feeling in a comfort zone in the Holland net.
"I think since I've come to Holland, I've become a better goalie and have stepped it up," Posler said. "Holland is a great situation with a lot of talented guys and a lot of chemistry. I know I've faced a lot of shots lately, but as a goalie, that's what you want. I feel like I can take a lot of pucks and that it helps me improve as a goaltender. When you only face 15-16 shots a game, there isn't a big margin for error.
"I also feel like I can be the goalie that when we're down or up by a goal late in the game, I can come up with the big save."
Last season, Posler played high school hockey for the Bay Area Reps and said his season there helped prepare him for the lateral move to junior hockey in the Midwest Junior Hockey League.
"We didn't have a really outstanding defense last year, so I saw a lot of shots," explained Posler, originally from Albuquerque, N.M. "I played with NAHL-caliber players and they really showed me how to prepare for each game and each practice. They showed me how to focus on just hockey and how to really block out the outside world."
Now finding his role with the River Bandits, Posler has been impressed with the level of play in the MWJHL.
"This league has been a lot more than what I expected," said Posler. "It's very competitive and has so many talented players here. I think it's definitely a league that will move players on next season."
Over his last four games, Holland has lost by two goals in three of them and much of the credit goes to Posler. Last Saturday night against the Soo Firehawks, Posler made 79 saves and prior to that game, stopped 104 shots over three games.
"My job is to go out there and even though I don't have a letter on my jersey, I want to be a leader on and off the ice," Posler said. "Before games, I like to get the team pumped up and keep the guys loose and focused."
Once the book is closed on this season, Posler wants to keep playing hockey at a high level and has his eyes on the NAHL and college hockey.
"The ultimate goal for any kid playing hockey is to play Division I college hockey," said Posler. "That's what every kid wants and I'm no different. It's funny, but I originally wanted to play hockey because as a kid in New Mexico, I saw a game and the winning team dog-piled on the goalie after they won and I wanted that to be me on the bottom of the pile.
"Now I know what it takes to make the jump to the next level and if I'm starting or not, I know I always have to be ready and that's the mentality I take each time we go out there. I am always ready and am always focused."