HOUGHTON - Michigan Tech goaltending recruit Jamie Phillips has played for six different hockey teams in the last four years, but Huskies fans hope the recent NHL draft pick will be content with one team during the next four years.
Phillips, a native of Caledonia, Ontario drafted 190th overall by the NHL's Winnipeg Jets in this year's draft, will join fellow recruit Pheonix Copley and senior Kevin Genoe in what is shaping up to be an intriguing goalie depth chart battle.
"They'll determine who's going to play. We have competition in net and they were aware of that coming in," Tech coach Mel Pearson said. " It's just like on a football team with three really good quarterbacks. It doesn't matter that it's two freshmen and a senior."
However the situation plays out, Phillips should have no problem adapting after what he's been through - particularly the last four years, but even before that.
No doubt, it's been quite a journey for the 6-foot-3, 175-pound goaltender.
Like many Canadians, Phillips could practically skate before he walked, lacing up for the first time at age 2 on his family's frozen pond in northern Quebec. His family moved to Ontario when he was 3 and Phillips actually played forward until he was 12 years old.
"I was kind of a sniper, I have to admit," Phillips said. " I had a knack for putting the puck in the net, but I always wanted to be a goalie."
Part of that desire came from playing goalie with his now-23-year-old brother Jesse and Jesse's friends while growing up. Another part came from the saves on Canadian broadcaster Don Cherry's "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em" hockey videos.
Ultimately, he begged his father Robin to let him put on the pads, and eventually he and Jamie's mother Katherine gave in. And Phillips has loved his spot between the pipes ever since.
"It was a little different starting out fresh in something at a late age, but the goalie school I attended, that's really where I started to make strides," Phillips said.
The year-round On Ice Goaltending School and instructor Derek Bujan were influential in Phillips' development and he quickly climbed the goaltending ladder.
In 2008, Phillips played for the St. Catharines Falcons Minor Midget team, before jumping to the Greater Ontario Hockey League's Welland Jr. Canadians (.883 save percentage) and Brantford Golden Eagles (.873) in 2009. He spent the entire 2010-11 season with the Pembroke Lumber Kings in the Central Canada Hockey League, compiling a 2.13 goals against average and .913 save percentage in 33 regular season games.
This past year he played 26 games for the British Columbia Hockey League's Powell River Kings (2.01 GAA, .921 percent) before being traded on the day of the trading deadline to the Toronto Jr. Canadiens of the Ontario Junior A Hockey League. There he compiled a 3.11 GAA and .917 save percentage before coming on really strong in the playoffs with a 2.99 GAA and .932 save percentage.
"Hats off to Jamie. He had a real good start to the season in the BC junior league and got traded to Toronto. What I really like about it is instead of sulking about the trade, he came out and had an outstanding playoff," Pearson said.
Phillips insists the constant transition over the last four years hasn't been that challenging, and he knows staying level-headed is just as key on the ice.
"I really didn't find it mentally straining. It's part of hockey," he said. "I viewed each stop is as a new challenge and new opportunity. I don't focus on the negative stuff and I just control what I can control."
Like his decision to come to Michigan Tech.
When Tech assistant coach Bill Muckalt watched him last fall in Powell River and talked to Phillips before most other college scouts took notice, Phillips was impressed.
"(Muckalt) explained the whole situation, campus life and especially with Mel Pearson there who's such a well-respected coach, when I had the fly-down I could tell right away this is where I want to be," Phillips said. "I like the small school and like the small town."
Toronto is the only big city Phillips has lived in and he wasn't a fan; he'd much rather just work out, play hockey, go to school and relax.
Which makes Houghton and Tech's exercise science program a perfect fit for the self-professed "health and fitness freak." He spends the little free time he does have cooking, refining his goaltending skills and doing yoga.
He's even been a yoga instructor, which helps with the flexibility and mental stability that's so critical for goaltenders.
Maybe once he arrives in Houghton on Aug. 24 he'll finally settle into some location stability as well, and Pearson expects Phillips will be a 3-4-year player under the tutelage of goalie coach Steve Shields.
"I'm just really excited to get to school and I can't wait to get on the ice," Phillips said.