Caliguiri gets chance to face Jets

Hitmen defenceman Ryan Gillen tries to put the puck past Wheat Kings goaltender Joe Caligiuri in...

Hitmen defenceman Ryan Gillen tries to put the puck past Wheat Kings goaltender Joe Caligiuri in Calgary, Alta. Caliguiri, now a starting goaltender for the University of Manitoba Bisons, got a chance to be a replacement netminder in Winnipeg Jets practice on Tuesday.

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:45 AM ET

WINNIPEG - In case you’re wondering, going to geography class or practising with the Winnipeg Jets is not a difficult decision.

It certainly wasn’t for University of Manitoba Bisons goaltender and Winnipeg native Joe Caligiuri, who jumped at the chance to practise with a real live NHL team on Tuesday morning at MTS Centre.

Jets backup Chris Mason was unable to attend the workout because his wife was giving birth to their second child on Tuesday morning. Enter Caligiuri, who just so happens to be the younger brother of Jets public relations staffer Christina Caligiuri.

“They’re fast, and they can shoot the puck,” Joe Caligiuri said in the dressing room after practice. “It was good to see what the best players in the world are like. I had a blast out there.

“It was really neat. I’d been in here when the Moose were in here at one point, but all the colours have changed and everything. It’s neat. You watch these guys on TV weekly on TSN, on Sportscentre, and it’s cool just to be out there with them.”

Caligiuri is off to a solid start with the Bisons. He was named the CIS male athlete of the week last Tuesday after back-to-back shutouts against the Calgary Dinos to kick off the Canada West season. That didn’t make facing some of the world’s top players any easier, however.

“(Bryan) Little and (Andrew) Ladd probably scored on me the most,” Caligiuri said. “Little was scoring on me at will. He’s a good player.”

The toughest adjustment for Caligiuri, 22, was getting used to how quickly NHLers release their shots.

“You have to be ready at all times,” he said. “A couple times they just completely caught me by surprise shooting the puck.”

Seeing the puck through a forest of 6-foot-4 players was tough, too, but he did get in the way of a few of them.

“If you’re in there long enough,” he said, “a few are going to hit you.”

All in all, it was a day to remember.

“It’s a dream growing up to play at this level,” he said. “Just to get a chance to do it for a day was a lot of fun.

“I would obviously do this any day they asked me to do it. If they ever need this again, I’ll be here for sure.”

Caligiuri and the Bisons are off to Edmonton this weekend to battle the top-ranked Alberta Golden Bears.


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