Tender makes Contact

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

With a little help from a Calgary Hitmen goaltending prospect, the Saskatoon Contacts are around to defend their Mac's title this weekend.

And Garrett Zemlak is a big reason the Contacts won their division after salvaging a 2-2 tie against the Toronto Jr. Canadiens yesterday.

The netminder made huge saves, especially in the second period, and Saskatoon came from behind to tie it -- with a 48 seconds left on the clock -- to secure the Div. 5 title.

While the Contacts were favoured coming in, Zemlak, 16, has always been an underdog.

He's been to two Hitmen training camps but didn't stick around, then earlier this season, he was also cut by the Saskatoon Blazers before getting a shot with the Contacts, the defending national midget champions.

But Zemlak has rebounded in a huge way, allowing just six goals against through Mac's round-robin play.

His long-term goal is a spot with the Hitmen next season, who won't have starting goalie Justin Pogge back -- Pogge signed a three-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs before the world juniors started in Vancouver.

"I want to crack a spot on that team," said the Saskatoon product, who is among the Saskatchewan Midget Hockey League's top goaltenders and has a 2.03 GAA and a sparkling .935 save percentage in league play.

"They told me it doesn't happen often for a 16-year-old goaltender and I understand that but I've been working hard and I wanted to come into this tournament and show them something."

Hitmen assistant GM Blaine Forsythe took in the last half of yesterday's game and certainly had his eye on Zemlak, calling him a great competitor between the pipes.

After this year's camp, Hitmen brass told Zemlak to work on his lateral movement, which he said he's improved this season.

Another thing the young 'tender has going for himself is confidence -- and plenty of it.

The Contacts lead the SMHL with a 22-5-0-1 record and Zemlak has won 11 of those contests.

"I'm feeling really good between the pipes and a big reason is getting a chance to play," said Zemlak, who started every game for Saskatoon in the Mac's.

The Hitmen took Zemlak in the sixth round of the 2004 bantam draft, and there will be a spot up for grabs next season, likely as the backup for Daniel Spence.

Zemlak will probably have to battle it out with Vancouver's Martin Jones, a fourth-round selection in this year's draft, at next year's Hitmen camp.


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