Jiri Patera’s journey to North America came after several years of competitive hockey in his home country of the Czech Republic. It now includes a shot at the prestigious award of Goaltender of the Year.
Although his North American junior career ended in Canada, his start was with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the United States Hockey League in the 2017-2018 campaign. He played in 34 games in that season as the team fell one point short of making the playoffs.
Patera won his last three games in 2017-18, one in which the team won their last five contests and seven of their final 10. He made 74 saves on 78 shots over those three games and one of them was a 32-save shutout.
The success that Jiri had in his first season in North America didn’t really come as a surprise. In the previous season (2016-2017) with the Motor Ceske Budejovice U20 club, Patera’s .933 save percentage was the best in the league. His .936 save percentage in the playoffs was also a league’s best.
Now we fast forward to the 2018-2019 season and Patera was Wheat City bound. The now 21-year-old joined the Brandon Wheat Kings and he was a busy man playing in his first season with the team, a year that included 48 starts with a .906 save percentage to go along with a 3.31 goals-against average.
Back in Brandon for this past season, Patera‘s junior journey officially came to an end when COVID-19 cut the season short. So although his days in Brandon are a thing of the past, they were times that he will never forget as he embarks on his next journey.
“I really enjoyed my time in Brandon, I couldn’t be more grateful for the people I met and spent time with,” said Patera. “I was provided with a great opportunity with the organization and I loved every minute.”
This past season is where Patera really stepped things up. We knew he was a good goalie prior to the season, but he certainly turned into an excellent goalie, one that helped the Wheat Kings become contenders across the Western Hockey League.
His 24 wins were the fourth-most in the league. Patera also missed a rather significant period of time due to injury which makes that 24 that much more impressive.
From December 30, 2019, until January 24, 2020, the Brandon Wheat Kings won 10 straight games. Jiri Patera was in net for eight of them and it didn’t matter what opposing teams did, it was nearly impossible to solve the Czech Republic native. Of those eight contests, three of them resulted in shutouts for Patera and he stopped 275 of the 284 shots he faced. He also made at least 41 saves in three of the games.
“I think that was one of my favourite memories of my junior career,” said Patera. “Just to see everyone smiling and playing their best, that was pretty incredible. I also couldn’t have done that without my teammates, they did everything they possibly could in front of me. It was a complete team effort.”
Brandon extended their point streak to 11 games in a 6-5 overtime loss against Lethbridge on January 25.
Every year, the Western Hockey League announces its goaltenders of the year in each conference. Dustin Wolf of the Everett Silvertips was named the Western Conference’s goaltender of the year. Wolf went 34-10-2 this past season with a 1.88 goals-against average and a sparkling .935 save percentage. Just recently, he also signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Calgary Flames.
Going up against Dustin for the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy (WHL goalie of the year) is none other than Patera.
Patera has been named the Eastern Conference’s goalie of the year. He was also named to the First All-Star Team alongside Braden Schneider.
“That’s a huge honour for me. But as I said above, I wouldn’t be able to do what I did without my teammates,” said Patera. “Dave Lowry had us playing in a great system. Everyone was playing their hardest. I’m really happy with the award, but I couldn’t do it without everyone on our roster.”
Patera will be looking to make it back-to-back years where Eastern Conference goalies won the goaltender of the year. Ian Scott of the Prince Albert Raiders won the award last year. The three years before that, Carter Hart won it for Everett.
If Jiri were to win the prestigious award, it would be another nod to what has been a successful junior career.
“That would be really big for my family and I,” said Patera. “I know Wolf had a great season and I wouldn’t be surprised if he won it. I guess we’ll just see how things go.”
It’s rather plain and simple; Patera wants his hockey career to continue in North America. He was drafted in the sixth round, 161st overall by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. It was a day that Jiri will never forget.
Patera is now hoping to sign a contract and to continue his hockey career in North America.
“It would be an honour to sign a contract, that’s my goal,” added Patera. “Wherever Vegas would want to send me will follow, but that’s definitely my goal to sign with Vegas and we’ll go from there.”
The story of Jiri Patera is definitely one that provides readers and junior hockey fans with a good storyline. It’s one that started in the Czech Republic before it went to Cedar Rapids. Brandon was the most recent stop and now, time will tell where Patera’s journey will take him next.