That in itself is pretty remarkable since he started this season as a true 16-year-old rookie and was thrown into the fire through the entire WHL playoffs as he replaced injured starter Rylan Toth and backed the Thunderbirds to their first ever WHL championship.
Stankowski was fantastic in their Memorial Cup opener Saturday against the Erie Otters, making 31 saves as Seattle was outshot heavily in a 4-2 loss.
However, the Thunderbirds committed three turnovers the next night that resulted in three quick goals before Stankowski was pulled in favour of Toth in a 7-1 loss to the host Windsor Spitfires.
Heading into Tuesday’s must-win game against the Saint John Sea Dogs, Seattle coach Steve Konowalchuk now has to decide whether to give Toth another shot or stick with the rookie who got them to the Memorial Cup in the first place.
“If I do (start Stankowski), I’m not going to have any doubts and hesitation,” Konowalchuk said.
“He’s a real good goalie. It was three big breakdowns there that left him out to dry, but I’m not going to commit to anything now. I’ve got two goalies that I’m very confident in.”
Toth looked good for most of the game until he coughed up the puck behind his net, resulting in Julius Nattinen’s second goal of the game and a 4-1 Spits lead late in the second period.
Toth, who backed the Red Deer Rebels in last year’s Memorial Cup, said every Seattle goalie – Stankowski, reserve Matt Berlin and himself – are confident no matter what situation they’re put in.
As for Stankowski, Toth knows part of his role is to help the rookie develop and he’s been amazed with what he’s seen from him so far.
“He got us here and he was awesome in the playoffs. I thought he was our MVP in the playoffs,” Toth said.
“Any little tip I can give him – I try not to impart too much on him and let him do his thing because it seems to be working – but I just tell him to enjoy the moment for sure.”
Toth, set to graduate as an overager, played in 58 games this season and posted a 2.75 goals-against average and .902 save percentage before suffering a lower body injury two games before the playoffs.
Stankowski went into the playoffs with only seven games played in the WHL and showed maturity beyond his years by posting a 2.50 goals-against average and .911 save percentage through 21 games.
He was especially strong through the WHL championship series as the Thunderbirds took care of the top-ranked team in Canada, the Regina Pats in six games, three of which went into overtime.
After Saturday’s game, Konowalchuk said he believed Stankowski, the first goalie taken in the 2015 WHL bantam draft, was capable of being part of a formidable goalie tandem with Toth.
Meanwhile, the top-spoken rookie from Calgary is enjoying a more fast-paced game as the Thunderbirds go deeper into the season, but he’s not getting too far ahead of himself.
“I just tried to stay calm,” he said on Saturday. “I don’t really look at it (as) a full game, just a puck at a time.”
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