Not many players will need to take six weeks of basic training before entering hockey training camp. But that’s what the Victoria Grizzlies’ new American goalkeeper Ansel ‘Gus’ Holt will be doing next year before playing NCAA Div. 1 for Army, officially known as the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.
“It’s a good class coming in next year [for the Black Knights], and there’s a real brotherhood in playing for Army, and we hope to make some noise,” the 19-year-old Holt, said following Grizzlies practice at The Q Centre this week.
But not before the Grizzlies’ projected starter hopes to raise the volume with his play in the B.C. Hockey League this season. He is six-foot-three, with size the main criteria pro scouts now look for in potential pro creasemen.
“It helps to fill the net but I’m also not afraid to be mobile and athletic,” said Holt.
His role models are Marc-Andre Fleury and Connor Hellebuyck.
“I mix the styles of the two and try to find something that is uniquely me,” said Holt, who’s out of the Maine Nordiques Prep Academy in Lewiston.
“I just put my head down and work hard every day.”
The love of hockey came from watching his hometown professional Toledo Walleye play in the ECHL: “That arena, and Walleye games, were a special time and place for me.”
His love of position runs in the family — dad John Holt was a goaltender in men’s leagues and sister Sophie Holt also plays the crease.
But the U.S. Army does not run in the family. Dad was in the U.S. Navy, but as an enlisted sailor, and did not attend the Naval Academy at Annapolis. Still, those Army-Navy football games will pit dad and son on opposite sides in a friendly family rivalry (Navy does not play NCAA hockey).
The path to the West Coast of Canada came about because of hockey connections through his dad. John Holt coaches and manages in the elite Detroit Compuware program at the U-14 level.
The younger Holt is well aware of the BCHL’s reputation for producing top players, including NHLers such as Jamie and Jordie Benn, Alex Newhook and Tyler Bozak out of the Grizzlies, a group that has won two Stanley Cups and an Olympic gold medal.
“I want to be a part of the next story,” said Holt.
Although his first name is Ansel, the goaltender is simply known as Gus around Grizzlies camp. The nickname came about because his middle name is Augustus after his grandfather August.
“My dad says Gus is shorter and easier to shout during practice,” said Holt, with a chuckle.
Students attending the U.S. Army, Navy or Air Force academies owe four years of service for their free post-secondary educations. That service can be deferred to a later date if their athletes graduate to make pro sports.
The Grizzlies (1-2 in the preseason) play the Cowichan Valley Capitals in a home-and-home exhibition set tonight at The Q Centre and Saturday at the Cowichan Community Centre. The Grizzlies’ regular-season opener is Sept. 23 against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs at The Q Centre.
LOOSE PUCKS: While the Grizzlies’ roster is close to what it’ll look like on opening night — down to 25 players heading into tonight’s game — GM and head coach Rylan Ferster did add some offence recently, swinging a trade with the Wenatchee Wild to acquire winger Owen Bohn for future considerations. The 20-year-old Bohn, who hails from San Jose, California, had 14 goals and 15 assists for 29 points in 42 games last season for the Wild.