Hockey goalies are the idiosyncratic monsters who willingly sacrifice their bodies between slap shots and the net. The last line of defense in a quick and violent sport demands a tough, visible force to keep the puck out of the goal.
Brent O'Connell is one of those special types, but for many other reasons.
The 6-foot junior from Park City High is a reserved, thoughtful student who is looking forward to studying engineering in college. For three years, the technically adapt player has relied on outthinking opponents by eliminating scoring angles. O'Connell has tried to mimic his favorite player, Mike Smith of the Phoenix Coyotes, by trusting his ability to anticipate the other team and make the stop.
"He's not a crazy, left-handed pitcher or wild-man punter but a quiet, reserved kid," team president Scott Benson said. "Brent is a part of a great junior class and is making a big impact for us."
Coaches have told O'Connell to be louder on the ice, but he feels his leadership comes from his relationship with his teammates off the ice. He lets his stick, glove and kick-saves do his talking. With his helmet down, the quiet kid who loves science and math expresses himself with a graceful goalkeeping that is becoming the foundation for a young team on the rise.
"I found it fine just working with the players without talking that much," O'Connell said. "I am just not a very loud person."
O'Connell entered the week with a .894 save percentage and allowing 1.86 goals-against average.
His composure throughout the game is the difference for the Miners. More than eliminating scoring angles for opponents, O'Connell's quiet confidence and work between the pipes give Park City a mature presence on the ice. Coach Aaron Dufford said O'Connell stands apart from other goalkeepers by his composure and ability to overcome momentary setbacks.
"In life and on the ice, he rolls with punches. If he gets scored on, it doesn't faze him," Dufford said. "Brent is a pretty mature, quiet kid that can overcome a goal going in and move on to the next play."
O'Connell started playing hockey four years ago when friends started going to the ice rink. He had been playing goalie in lacrosse for years, which helped the transition to the ice. He enjoys the camaraderie with teammates and the tempo of the game.
"I'd like to play in college, but if not, I plan on playing hockey for the rest of my life," he said. "It's a great game, and I love being out there."
Meet Brent O'Connell
In addition to playing hockey, O'Connell is an avid golfer and skier.
Born in Arizona, O'Connell is a fan of the Phoenix Coyotes and their goalie, Mike Smith.
O'Connell plans on studying engineering at college.