James Doyle

Cougars’ Gauthier looking to put finishing touches on WHL career

 

Prince George Cougars netminder Taylor Gauthier is preparing for what might be his final season in a Cougars jersey.

The now 19-year-old goaltender was on pace for another career year with the Cats before it was cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic, back on March 13.

The numbers

Gauthier put up a 2.93 goals-against average and a 0.917 save percentage, and a career-high total of 16 wins. He was also first in the league for minutes played at 2870, tied for first for games played at 50, and second in shots faced and saves.

Lockdown

After the season ended in March, Gauthier returned home to Calgary, where he has remained since. He’s now hoping for one last kick at the can before he hangs the skates up in the dub.

“I’ve been working out quite a bit, staying in my small group of close friends and family. We hang out pretty much every day,” explained Gauthier.

“I’ve been golfing a decent amount this year too, so I’ve been trying to keep myself as busy as I can.”

The Calgary, Alberta, product was one of five goaltenders to earn an invite to Hockey Canada’s National Junior Team Summer Development Camp last month, which was moved online due to the pandemic.

Gauthier is also ranked 19th among goaltenders in this year’s NHL Central Scouting final draft rankings.

The day it all changed 

When the Cougars heard about the season being canceled, they were on the bus to Victoria, scheduled to play the Royals the following day.

“We kind of had a feeling that something was going to happen,” he said, recalling how the NBA canceled its season the night before.

“After we found out, I had just woken up. We were in a gas station parking lot, which we never usually do. We never usually pull over anywhere, really. So it was a lot of confusion and trying to figure out what was going on.”

Gauthier says he hasn’t experienced anything like it before, or since.

“It was just a really weird day. And then going back, another five and a half hours back to Prince George was pretty tough,” he said, adding that it took a little while for everything to sink in.

“We ended up staying in Prince George for a couple of days and hung out with a couple of the older guys that weren’t coming back next year,” he said.

After that, it was time for him to return home.

New normal

“I pretty much went straight into lockdown for almost a month,” Gauthier mused.

Now that the restrictions in Alberta are beginning to lift, he says he’s found a schedule. He leased out equipment from his local gym and has been doing at-home workouts.

“That was all I did for the first month and a half (of lockdown) until the gyms opened back up,” he laughed. “And then I was back there!”

Now as the rinks reopen, he’s been able to get some sorely missed ice time as well. Gauthier, like every other player in the league, is eagerly anticipating the upcoming season.

Next steps

“I think we had a pretty good year last year. If this season didn’t get cut short, we would have had a good chance of making a run at the playoffs,” he explained. “Everyone says once you get in, it’s like a completely new season and it’s anyone’s game,” Gauthier said.

“So I think we were trending upwards, right at the end of the year. If COVID didn’t end our season right when it did, I thought we would have had a good chance at giving the fans something that they’ve been wanting for the last couple of years,” he added.

Gauthier has one final year of draft eligibility and also has his eye on a potential roster spot for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships.

“It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do, dreaming of, since I was three or four years old watching with my dad!”

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