Brown Bears’ Enright makes most of opportunities

Kenai River Brown Bears goaltender Gavin Enright attempts to reel in the puck ahead of a scrum of players Oct. 27, 2017, against the Minnesota Magicians at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Some people get all the breaks. But nobody would even know who those people are if they didn’t make good on those opportunities.

 

Take Kenai River Brown Bears goalie Gavin Enright.

Enright, 18, wanted to leave Farmington Senior High School in Minnesota this year to play junior hockey.

But when Kenai River assistant Nick Sova contacted the 6-foot-2, 155-pounder early in the summer, Enright was electing to try out for other teams. He didn’t make any of them.

When Enright asked about going to the Main Camp of the Brown Bears, he was informed all the goalie slots were full.

“I figured I was probably headed back to high school,” Enright said.

Fate intervened.

One of the players attending camp had filled out a form wrong and accidentally said he was a goalie. That opened up a goalie slot. Sova quickly contacted Enright, and since the camp was in Minnesota, Enright was there the next day.

“He was lights out,” Sova said of Enright. “He came in and was really good for us. It was a no-brainer.”

Fast-forward to this past weekend. The Bears had too many imported players on their roster and had to drop Lithuanian goaltender Artur Pavliukov.

Enright got the start in both games and came through with a pair of victories against the Coulee Region (Wisconsin) Chill.

“He’s definitely come in and made the most of opportunities,” Sova said. “He knows that just as quickly as chances come, chances can go.”

The son of Autumn and Brady Enright, Gavin actually put on skates for the first time in Somerset, Wisconsin, but is a Minnesota hockey product.

He started playing goalie at 7 or 8 after watching then-Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, learning the craft through year-round play with the Farmington Hockey Association.

Enright made Farmington’s varsity as a freshman, and that’s when he decided he wanted to play college hockey one day.

Before his sophomore season, he started training with the Minnesota Advancement Program, commonly known as MAP, and that’s where he met Sova.

In sticking with the program and goalie coach Jacque Vezina for three years, Enright has skated with NHL players like Justin Falk and J. T. Brown.

As a sophomore, Enright started all 31 games and the Tigers made Minnesota’s famed state hockey tournament, losing in the first round to Stillwater High and current Fairbanks Ice Dogs goaltender Josh Benson before about 10,000 at the Xcel Energy Center.

Farmington then lost 16 seniors, so Enright faced a lot of shots his junior year.

Before his senior season, he upped the ante by working with Dave Rogalski, the goalie development coach for the St. Louis Blues.

He also took a cue from NHL goalies like Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild and started doing eye exercises. Enright did his at McDonald Eye Care Associates in Minnesota.

Sova said the Brown Bears were enamored not only with Enright’s current ability, but with signs that he would continue to improve.

“He was always a worker and a very, very talented athlete,” the assistant said. “He’s a guy you’re never worried about coming to the rink and not putting in the work it takes to get better.

“He’s the kind of player we want in the organization.”

Enright, who billets with Lindsay and Steve Hallam of Kenai, is 7-11-0-0 with a .901 save percentage and 3.65 goals-against average.

“I struggled a bit in the middle of the year,” Enright said. “It was tough to pick up the speed and pace of the NAHL. It’s different than high school.”

But Sova and head coach Josh Petrich have been encouraged by Enright’s play after the Christmas break.

“In this league, some players get homesick and go home at Christmas and see all their friends and never turn the corner,” Sova said. “He’s come back and he’s starting to turn the corner.”

Enright did something else at Christmas that will help as he pursues a college scholarship with his two years of junior eligibility after this season. He went to school in Farmington for a week.

Sova said the Bears have a team grade-point average in the mid 3s, and Enright is right up there with them.

Enright also is burnishing his game by learning to coach it. He’s coached goalies over the summer for about four years, and this summer he plans to coach at MAP.

Throw in the hiking and fishing trip he did, and Enright is glad the Bears found a spot for him.

“I’ve never had a team I’ve been so close to before,” Enright said. “We spend so much time together and the season is so long.

“I like it. I’m having fun up here.”

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