Stepping out onto the ice at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, with crowds cheering and horns blowing, Griffen Outhouse is as calm as can be.
The Victoria Royals goalie has learned to block out the jeers of the opposing team, the voice of the announcer and the blood-pumping music to focus on the task at hand — winning the game.
“It’s something I’ve gotten used to. You still have to get excited and treat every game like it could be your last,” Outhouse said. “I like to go out there calm and just have fun. That’s when I play the game best, when I’m enjoying the game and when I want to be there and I want shots.”
It’s a skill the six-foot, 175-pound netminder has learned, since taking over as starting goalie from Coleman Vollrath this season.
Outhouse has had a solid perfomance during his first season starting in net, recording 34 wins (as of Tuesday) and a save percentage of 0.918. Most recently, he set the new franchise record for the most wins in a season — a success he was quick to credit his teammates with.
Outhouse’s passion for hockey began later than most. When he was eight years old living in Williams Lake, his cousins wanted to play hockey but were in need of a goalie. That’s when they decided to strap a motor bike helmet, baseball glove and shin pads onto Outhouse and throw him in net. From the moment the puck hit his pad, he was hooked.
He played atom, before moving through pee wee, bantam and midget. Shortly after, he moved to Kelowna and billeted with his aunt, while he played in the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey program. The next year, he moved to Prince George and played with the Cariboo Cougars’ major midget team, before eventually winding up with the Victoria Royals for the 2015/16 season. Playing his first game with the Royals and hearing his name announced was something Outhouse will never forget.
“On ice, it’s just fun, I love winning. Like most sports, winning is a lot of fun. I think hockey is different from most sports in the sense of how much we’re (the team) together and how close the guys are,” said the now 18-year-old, whose end goal is to play in the NHL. “The off ice aspect is a lot of fun. Every team I’m on, I’ve got 20 new best friends.”
Head coach Dave Lowry said Outhouse has grown and matured throughout the course of the season.
“He’s been very good. I think he’s grown up a lot, not only as a player, but he’s matured in his preparation and understanding of how hard it is to be a starting goalie in the league,” Lowry said. “He’s a competitor in the net and he wants to be in the net.”
Now Outhouse is preparing for a new challenge — the Western Hockey League playoffs. Last year, Outhouse suited up in three post-season games, but this year, he has more riding on his shoulders. The key, Outhouse said, will be keeping things simple in the days and hours leading up to the games: getting enough sleep, eating right and staying hydrated.
“I think those are the keys to me doing well in the playoffs,” said Outhouse, adding anything can happen in the post-season. “Any team can beat any team in the playoffs. It’s just such a different game and every game is high pace. They talk about how it’s going to be hard, but you don’t understand it until you get in your first game and realize how hard it is.”
The Royals’ final home game of the season takes place Friday, March 17 (today) before heading to Washington to take on the Everett Silvertips the following night.