For the Calgary Hitmen, the Daniel Spence era is about to begin, at least temporarily.
With starting netminder Justin Pogge, along with defenceman Jeff Schultz, at the Canadian world junior selection camp which starts today, backup netminder Daniel Spence is now the man between the pipes for the Hitmen.
The 17-year-old has only played in four games this season as Calgary (23-8-0-0) takes on the Seattle Thunderbirds (14-11-1-3) today (Saddledome, 5 p.m.) and Hitmen head coach/GM Kelly Kisio said Spence has an opportunity to make a statement.
"It's a huge chance for him. It's a very important time for him to come in and prove that he can be an everyday goalie in our league next year," said Kisio after practice yesterday.
"Right now he's got to prove himself in practice and every game that we can have the confidence in him next year as our No. 1 guy."
Spence, who hails from Langley, B.C., sports a 1-3 record with a 3.50 goals-against average and a .849 save percentage this season.
In evaluating Spence so far, Kisio noted he's working harder in practice but the coaching staff still wants to see more out of the second-year goalie.
"He is working harder but he's still got a long ways to go as far as everyday work habits but he's coming around though," noted Kisio, whose team has won five in a row.
The Hitmen boast one of the WHL's best defensive units with a league-low 58 goals against, which will be a bit weaker without Schultz, so Spence should benefit if the blueliners continue doing their thing.
"I hope our team rallies around him and we can help him win some hockey games for us," said Kisio.
Backing up Spence, for today at least, is Calgarian Scott Bolland, 19, who is on loan from the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
But after the Seattle game, Kisio is not sure who'll be on the bench.
Last season Spence played in 17 games as a rookie.
Should they make the world junior team, Pogge and Schultz, as well as skilled forward Freddie Pettersson, who will play for Sweden, could miss up to seven games.