Rookie goalie makes his mark

After three years, Ryan Gibb is back in the classroom but still between the pipes

Ryan Gibb spent two years with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals and a year with the Junior “A” Georgetown Raiders before joining the Queen’s Golden Gaels.
Ryan Gibb spent two years with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals and a year with the Junior “A” Georgetown Raiders before joining the Queen’s Golden Gaels.
Gibb gestures to his teammates during the Carr-Harris Cup.
Gibb gestures to his teammates during the Carr-Harris Cup.
Gibb follows the puck last Wednesday at RMC.
Gibb follows the puck last Wednesday at RMC.

When it comes to his approach to competition, Ryan Gibb doesn’t mince words.

“I expect to win every time I go into the rink. Anything less is a disappointment.”

This brazen confidence may not be what you would expect from a rookie athlete, but Queen’s men’s hockey starting goaltender Ryan Gibb isn’t your average rookie.

In his first season of university hockey, the 21-year-old Gibb secured the starting spot and, by all accounts, is the main reason why the Gaels remain in the hunt for a playoff spot.

His play has also inspired confidence in his teammates.

“It gives us a lot of confidence knowing he’s back there,” forward Brady Olsen said. “He’s a rookie but he doesn’t play like it.”

By far the busiest goalie in the CIS, Gibb has faced almost 150 shots more than any netminder in the country. He also leads the league in saves by the same number. Despite seeing more rubber than road kill, Gibb posts a .907 save percentage, good for 10th place in the province.

But Gibb doesn’t mind being busy.

“It’s much harder to stay mentally focused when you’ve been standing there with nothing happening for six or seven minutes,” he said.

He brushed aside his impressive statistics saying the numbers are flattering but do not necessarily reflect his level of play.

He said much of the credit for his success this season belongs to his coaches and teammates, adding that Brett Gibson is one of the best coaches he has ever had.

“He’s a player’s coach really. He’s one of the guys as much as he’s an enforcer.”

After graduating from high school in Toronto, Gibb was drafted to the Ontario Hockey League’s Oshawa Generals where he played for two years.

He said he never questioned his decision to postpone higher education in favour of playing hockey.

“I don’t regret it in the least.”

But when he turned 20 and was no longer allowed to play in the OHL, he was forced to explore other options if he wanted to continue his career in the sport.

He spent the last season playing for the Georgetown Raiders Junior ‘A’ team before deciding to become a full-time student.

The decision to come to Queen’s was not difficult to make, he said. He had friends here from high school and, in terms of the education he would get, he said it was a no brainer.

He said he also chose Queen’s because the hockey team is in the process of rebuilding, offering him the chance to make an immediate impact on the team.

“I was told that I was going to get the opportunity to start.”

He is currently a health studies major and said he plans to stick with it.

“Then I can always stay with athletics … I’d never really have to leave the game even if I wasn’t playing.”

Gibb is not the first in his family to seriously pursue a hockey career.

“My dad was easily the biggest influence in hockey,” he said.

The elder Gibb played professionally in Europe before bringing his expertise to minor hockey.

“He saw that I thoroughly enjoyed playing and made sure I stayed on the ball. Still does.”

He was coached by his dad for six years and he said it gave him a perspective on the job that other kids his age didn’t have.

It helped him distinguish between the two roles his dad played.

“I think by the time he wasn’t my coach I was smart enough to know the difference between a coach and a friend.”

Gibb said his coach never hesitated to pull him son out of a game.

“That was always a bit of a shock, being pulled by my dad.”

Gibb spent his formative years playing both defence and goalie. He even spent one season playing in two different leagues, playing defence in one league and goalie in another.

“At the time I was just a kid so it was good to be at the rink for five hours every Sunday,” he said. “I’m sure mom and dad weren’t too impressed,” he added with a smile.

He said he would love to leave Queen’s with a degree but also said that, if the right opportunity presented itself, he would consider leaving early.

“That’s a bridge to cross if I get there,” he said carefully. “I can’t start looking to far ahead and lose sight of this year.”

As for the immediate future, he said he’s optimistic but refused to speculate on concrete results, displaying a bit of athlete’s superstition.

“I’m not very big on predictions. They always seem to come back and bite people.”

For the moment, he and the rest of the team are focused on earning a spot in the post-season, he said.

“I really hope to get a really strong playoff run this year.” He said if the team can put together a decent performance this season and maybe pick up a few new players in the off-season, there is no telling what they can accomplish.

“By next year we could be a powerhouse.”

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