Goaltending battle fueling Wildcats hot start


The Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats had an outstanding start to the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League season with a 10-1-1-0 record in 2019. That success has been fuelled, in part, by a quiet battle in the crease between incumbent starter Amaya Giraudier and free agent addition Cheyenne Jamieson.

The Wildcats have allowed a paltry 14 goals in 12 league games this season. Giraudier leads all goaltenders with a .956 save percentage and a 0.83 goals against average. Jamieson is close behind with a .938 save percentage and a 1.46 GAA.

“I think it’s been pretty good. I think defensively the team has definitely stepped up and we’ve cleaned up a lot in our own zone. I’ve just been playing the puck more and communicating with my team,” said Giraudier of her impressive start.

“Things have been going pretty good for me. Coming from Melville and moving here, it’s definitely been a change. I really like Swift Current. The team is a lot stronger with better defense. It’s been really good,” added Jamieson.

“They’re both competitive kids and they’re both quietly competitive,” explained Wildcats head coach Terry Pavely. “I think Jamieson is probably a little bit more aggressive, challenges a little bit more. Whereas Amaya is a little bit more about positioning, making sure she’s in the right spot. Both have very quick feet. Both are starting to play the puck very well. There are a lot of similarities, but the biggest differences are Jamieson is a little bit more active, challenges more, where Amaya is just a little bit more positionaly based and kind of just lets pucks hit her.”

The current crease mates were rivals the past two seasons. Jamieson, 17, spent the previous two seasons with the Melville Prairie Fire. She emerged last season with three shutouts, a 2.87 GAA, and a .913 save percentage.

Giraudier, 16, broke into the league in 2017-18 with a 2.10 GAA and a .914 save percentage. Those numbers slipped last season to 2.88 and .888 respectively.

“I think just the trust that I have with my defense this year and just the consistency that we’ve shown in games so far,” said Giraudier of her improved numbers.

“One, it comes with maturity. She’s a 16-year-old now, sometimes we forget when we have young kids, even at 15 in their second year in the league, they’re still pretty young. I think maturity-wise it helps a lot. But I really do think that having someone there to push to know that if you have a bad start in game we won’t hesitate to put someone else in because we can’t spot a team two goals if someone’s not ready to play. Having that competitiveness has really benefitted Amaya this year and credit to her, having a veteran player come in and battle for the net with her, and she’s really elevated her game this year,” said Pavely.

Both netminders seem to enjoy the newfound partnership.

“I think it’s good. I think we can both learn a lot from each other. The competitiveness in practice always pushes us to do as best we can,” said Giraudier, who hails from Assiniboia.

“It’s been really good,” added Jamieson. “Having a second goaltender has definitely made me more competitive on and off the ice. The past few years I haven’t had a second goaltender, so this has made me a lot more competitive and just helps everything.”

Jamieson played in 25 of 28 regular season games last season and led the SFMAAAHL with 751 saves after her backup was injured. She played in 21 games the previous season when her backup was also injured.

“It’s definitely been a change, but I really like it. The last few years have definitely burnt me out. This year having half and half is really nice,” said the Moosomin product.

Jamieson was suddenly in search of a new team last spring when the Saskatchewan Hockey Association contracted the Female AAA Midget team from Melville.     

“I considered all the teams in the league and just kind of weighed the pros and the cons. Terry contacted me probably a week after we finished league, because they weren’t allowed to contact us until after. He contacted me and was really nice about it. He wanted to meet me and said come to Regina. He was straightforward with everything and I just found that he was the most sociable and well thought out coach in the league.”

It’s no wonder her phone rang when she became a free agent after she posted a .931 save percentage against the Wildcats in four outings.

“Playing against the Wildcats was definitely difficult games for me just because we didn’t have the strongest team, so I was always getting a lot of shots. I always just tried to play my best. They were a really good team last year and we are good again this year too.”

“I knew most of these girls coming into the season, so it helped a lot. Getting to know them better built a lot more trust on the ice. Playing with them and seeing how good they are made me improve almost just because of how much trust I have within them,” said Jamieson.

With Jamieson’s arrival, the Wildcats now have the benefit of two legitimate number one goaltenders.

“It’s nice to have that where you can trust both goaltenders. The best thing is it does push them, they can compete in practice. You do shootout drills or you do some three-on-three and they both work hard to compete to help their team win. When you have two solid goalies that push each other I think the benefit that we’re getting game in and game out is that we are getting goaltending that allows us a chance to win,” said Pavely, who added that they don’t have to force one goaltender to play too much either. “Obviously when we get around playoffs we are going to have to make a decision and probably ride one, but right now it’s nice to be able to just throw either one in net.”

With a solid one-two punch in goal, the Wildcats will continue to chase their first Fedoruk Cup as SFMAAAHL champions.

“I think definitely in the future we’re going to want to go as far as we can. I think we have a pretty decent team to do it this year. Hopefully we will get as far as we can,” said Giraudier.

“We’ve definitely been playing really good. We take care of our own zone really well. We can put the puck in the net when we really want to,” added Jamieson.

Jamieson has never been a part of a SFMAAAHL playoff win, something she is hoping to change in Swift Current.

“We definitely want to go as far as we can. Our main goal is to win league and go to Esso [Cup]. We have to work as a team and do everything to work on the details to get there.”

The Wildcats will return to league action with three games against the host Prince Albert Bears on Jan. 3-5.