Gloss’ journey helped prepare him for the college game
HOUGHTON — The last time a substantial number of local eyes caught Finlandia Lions incoming freshman goaltender Marcus Gloss, they saw a senior giving everything he had in a losing effort as the Houghton Gremlins lost the Michigan D3 state championship game to Bloomfield Hills-Cranbrook-Kingswood, 4-0. Since that tough ending to his high school career, Gloss has been through more than most hockey players should ever had to go through in order to continue his hockey career, and soon the Lions will benefit from all his experience.
For Gloss, the opportunity to play college hockey so close to home was very attractive.
“It’s nice,” said Gloss. “You go away, you play a couple of years in a town where you know nobody. [If] you get a chance to come home, play college hockey in front of people you know and with people you know, it is a good feeling.”
As he readies to enter the college game with the Lions, Gloss possesses the kind of size, 6-foot-4, that is trending heavily for goaltenders at every level. While having that type of height is nice, especially since when he drops into his butterfly he still takes up a lot of the net, he has had to work on his reflexes, which are slower than those of a far shorter and more compact goaltender.
“It is hard to be as quick,” said Gloss. “When you are smaller, it is a little easier, but the bigger you get, the slower you get. That’s been a little bit of a concern over the years.”
Gloss has seen both sides of the coin when it comes to goaltending. Prior to his growth spurt in high school, Gloss’ frame was actually short and stocky, but that changed around the age of 14, and he soon grew into one of the best area goalies in recent memory.
After posting a 2.73 goals against average (GAA) as a sophomore, Gloss cut that down to a 1.67 while playing in two more game as a junior and then cut it even further to 1.17 as a senior in 19 games. His save percentage also rose from .884 to .944 as a senior.
He was drafted out of high school by the Metro Jets of the North American Tier III Hockey League (NA3L). While he was expecting to be the starter coming into the Jets’ camp, the reality of junior hockey hit almost immediately as he found himself one of several goaltenders the Jets brought in and soon found himself packing his bags and heading to Pennsylvania to play for the Pittsburgh Vengeance.
Gloss started off hot for the Vengeance, going 6-2 in his first eight starts, but the team was middling at 9-7-2 despite his strong play. In all, Gloss appeared in 12 contests for the Vengeance, racking up a 2.53 GAA and a .930 save percentage.
While not ideal, Gloss made the best of the difficult start to his junior career.
“It was a really rough start for me,” said Gloss. “It ended up well. It definitely taught me a lot of good lessons that nothing in hockey is ever guaranteed.”
While the on-ice success Gloss was enjoying helped him adjust to being far from home, the Vengeance had off-ice problems that forced him to pursue other opportunities as quickly as he could. He found a new home almost as far from home as he could get when he joined the Comox Valley Glacier Kings of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL).
The VIJHL was home to teams full of players who were playing for a chance to get called up to the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) and others using the league as a pit stop en route to the Western Hockey League.
Gloss’ numbers in the second half of the season were not stellar, but he did see action in 14 regular season games before starting four his team’s five playoff contests.
The transition to being that far away from home took longer than Gloss would have liked.
“Going from the NA3HL to the VIJHL was definitely a little different,” said Gloss. “The NA3HL is a lot more physical and the VIJHL is a lot more skill because it is right below the BCHL.”
Last season, Gloss returned to the Glacier Kings and took two friends, Hancock graduates Zach Ahola and Dylan Paavola, with him. With the local trio together, the Glacier Kings made the playoffs thanks in a large part to the efforts of Gloss in goal.
In 28 games, Gloss posted a 3.24 GAA and a .908 save percentage, but he also suffered through a lingering pair of injuries that cut his season short at key times. It was a difficult experience for Gloss, who had never dealt with difficulties of that magnitude before.
“It’s always tough to watch from the stands whether you are scratched, injured, anything like that,” said Gloss. “We were going through backup situation where we did not have a reliable backup. I admit, there were a couple of times where I tried to come back too early. It is tough going through injuries.”
Gloss admitted that he twice tried to come back too quickly, leading to further issues, but he feels that he learned a lot from the experience. Coupled with two team changes, a billet family change the injuries put Gloss through a lot in his two years of junior hockey. He would not take back any of the experience, as he learned about himself in the process.
“Looking back, I definitely could have done things better, but I am happy with the way things turned out,” said Gloss. “I think everything kind of worked out similar to the way I would have wanted it to.”
With his large frame, Gloss likens his game to that of Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward. Ward, a veteran of 625 games at the NHL level, played parts of four seasons with the Red Deer Rebels before needing just one season of seasoning in the AHL and then arriving on the scene for the Hurricanes in 2005-06.
Gloss loves Ward’s work ethic, and feels it is something he tries to incorporate into his own game.
“I like his fundamentals and the way he plays, the way he thinks about it,” said Gloss.
Now part of second wave of players off those great Gremlins’ teams to move on to the college game, Gloss is excited to be a part a new era for the Lions under second-year head coach Joe Burcar. With only Alec Rounds returning, Gloss looks forward to challenging him for the starting role as soon as he has the chance to.