Tomas Sholl Rolling in New Idaho Digs

Author: Brian McCormack, idahosteelheads.com
Date: Mar 26, 2018

The Idaho Steelheads found themselves with a predicament on March 6th when goaltender Philippe Desrosiers was called up to the Texas Stars. With Ryan Faragher already in AHL Stockton since mid-February, the Steelheads were heading into the homestretch of the Mountain Division playoff race without either half of the goaltending battery that had appeared in every Steelheads game since November 3rd, the ninth game of the season.

The Steelheads handed the reins to rookie goaltender Tomas Sholl, and Sholl has arguably been the ECHL’s best goaltender ever since.

“It’s definitely gone well, both personally and for the team. We’re winning games and that’s the most important thing,” said Sholl, now manning the net for his fourth team in his first pro season. “Obviously it feels good to be recognized for your success.”

Sholl was named the ECHL’s Goaltender of the Week for each of the last two weeks, the first Steelheads goaltender ever to win the award in consecutive weeks and the third Idaho goalie to win the award twice in the same season. Handed the Number One role in the midst of a playoff run with a new team, the rookie has thrived with a 4-0-1 record with Idaho, as well as an 0.76 goals-against average and a .972 save percentage.

“I don’t think we’re surprised because he has now sustained that success for a full season,” said Steelheads Head Coach Neil Graham. “It’s not unusual for an ECHL-contracted goalie to have to start in the SPHL because there are only two spots at that position. He started in the Southern League and did very well, and obviously his numbers in Adirondack speak for themselves.”

It’s true that although Sholl has gained some spotlight since joining the Steelheads, his impressive rookie season stretches all the way back to October. He started the season in the Southern Professional Hockey League, playing 20 games between Macon and Evansville and going 14-3-3. That success gained him a chance with the Adirondack Thunder where he went 5-0-1 in eight appearances with a 2.05 goals-against average.

“That’s when we keyed in on him and noticed he was winning some big games for that club,” said Graham. “When we were able to acquire his rights for cash considerations, it was a no-brainer.”

He remains undefeated in regulation time in his ECHL career through 13 appearances, now 9-0-2 and having stopped 140 of 144 shots he has faced in a Steelheads uniform. Of the four goals he has surrendered, only one has come at even strength.

“I like his demeanor,” said Graham. “He is quiet by nature but he carries a confidence about him in a quiet way. That’s something liked by coaches and by teammates.”

Sholl is also thriving with the heaviest work-load of his career, after only appearing in 19 games over three seasons in college in a crowded crease at Bowling Green.

“I think it goes to show you that you never write a guy off because of a past situation. I wasn’t at Bowling Green and I don’t know what that situation was in terms of opportunities and starts,” said Graham. “I have a good relationship with their coach and he spoke highly of his character, but he wasn’t the starter there. He was a great kid who worked hard on and off the ice, and I’m sure some of that work ethic and willingness to wait for an opportunity has carried over into the pro game.”

Sholl isn’t waiting for opportunity anymore. While his overall game has been stellar, Sholl may have grabbed more attention around the league after he had earned his first Goaltender of the Week award. Shortly after the announcement, he was between the pipes for back-to-back shutouts in South Carolina against the second-place Stingrays, making 60 saves for the first two shutouts of his ECHL career and another award.

In a hostile environment against a team with its eyes set on June, Sholl was dominant in two playoff-style games.

“They were both one-goal games late and were very intense and hard-fought,” said Sholl. “They were hard-hitting and there were fights, and they were fun games to play in.”

In Wednesday night’s contest against the Rapid City Rush, an opponent already eliminated from playoff contention, Sholl showed his mental game to be just as strong as his acrobatics in Charleston.

“Look at Wednesday night, he only faced ten shots through two periods. That can be tough, but then he made some massive saves in the third when they suddenly put up 16 shots,” said Graham. “He was cold for 40 minutes and was asked to make some saves at a key time, and he did that. He gave us an opportunity to get a lead by making early saves in that period and staying with it through a shootout win.”

With only one goal against in his last three outings, Sholl’s game and his confidence level continue to climb. An Alec Baer goal late in Wednesday’s game snapped Sholl’s personal shutout streak at 210:14, the longest that Sholl can remember having at any point in his life.

“When things are going well, of course you feel a little more confident. You trust you might get a bounce or two and you only have to worry about making the easy saves,” said Sholl. “If you make the easy saves, you trust that your defensemen will clear the rebounds. That’s been the case.”

With only seven games left on the schedule, and the Steelheads with an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot on Friday, Sholl is playing at an elite level. That’s good news for him, and also for his new team that took a chance on a young rookie and is getting handsomely rewarded for it.

“He’s not taking it for granted. He has an opportunity right now and the ball is in his court and he’s running with it,” said Graham. “When every day you’re fighting for something and you have something to prove, good things can happen.”

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