By Ken Pagan
Justin Easter is quietly putting together a solid season in net for the Hamilton Kilty B’s.
Easter stopped 20 of 22 shots on Monday to backstop the Kilty B’s to a 5-2 win over the Welland Jr. Canadians at the Dave Andreychuk Mountain Arena. Even with another consistent performance to help his team win, Easter’s league-leading personal statistics took a hit.
The 18-year-old Burlington native, who spent the 2018-19 season playing junior ‘C; with the Hagersville Hawks, approaches the mid-season holiday break with the top save percentage (.929) in the 26-team Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League. He also has the third-best goals-against average (2.14) among goaltenders who have played at least half their team’s games.
Monday’s performance was just another showing of the consistency Easter has been displaying all season. In 20 games, the six-foot-three redhead has allowed three or fewer goals 17 times. Included in that total are Easter’s league-leading four shutouts, three of which he piled up in October when he was named the Golden Horseshoe Conference’s Goaltender of the Month.
“The biggest thing is, I think I’ve really figured out my mental game and it’s helped me on the ice,” Easter said following a recent game. “I’ve been able to keep my head clear and focus on what’s important. A lot of the hard work I did in the summer and continue to do now is paying off.”
Easter has had to work to earn his share of the net. The Kilty B’s also feature 16-year-old goaltender Matteo Drobac, a sixth-round draft pick of the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs last spring, who has signed a commitment with the Bulldogs and has already earned a call-up to the OHL club in October. In 13 games, Drobac has a .916 save percentage (10th-best in the GOJHL) and 2.97 goals-against average.
“It’s a really good relationship we have,” Easter said. “It’s the best kind of relationship you can have as goalies, where there are two talented goalies and you both want to start games. We’re friendly, too, so we just want what’s best for the team and best for each other.”
While Drobac appears to have OHL hockey in his future, Easter is appreciative that Kilty B’s general manager Brian Rizzetto has had some junior ‘A’ teams looking at him this season. Easter is hopeful of playing junior ‘A’ out west next season, but there is still some unfinished business in the New Year, helping the Kilty B’s make a run in the GOJHL playoffs.
The Kilty B’s (18-11-3) got goals from five different players in Monday’s 5-2 win as Peyton Adams-Matthews, Nick Giamou, Nolan Underwood, Terry Bridgland and Christian Pelley scored. Steven Laforme had two assists. Ivan Osminin and Angus Young scored for Welland (4-23-4).
On Sunday, the Kilty B’s crossed the border to skate to a 7-2 win over the Buffalo Regals (7-20-4).
Andrew Lukezic and Bridgland each scored twice, while Jacob Macdonald, Eli Rivers and Pelley had one each. Drobac stopped 16 of 18 shots for the win.