Former Elmira Sugar Kings netminder and 2010-2011 Sutherland Cup champion Nick Horrigan rejoined the organization this month, taking over the role of goalie coach.
“I always wanted to come back to Elmira, whether it was living here or working,” the 24-year-old Mount Forest native said during an interview this week at the Woolwich Memorial Centre. “Ever since I stepped foot in Elmira, I knew it was a place I could eventually call home. …The ability to give back to the community and the organization that gave me so much is really what drives me, and to be able to be a part of such a classy organization that is truly second to none, there is nothing more that I would love to do.”
Horrigan made the jump up to Junior B hockey with the Kings from the Junior C Mount Forest Patriots partway through the 2009-10 campaign. Splitting time with Brandon Gorecki, Horrigan made 23 starts, posting a .904 save percentage and a 3.80 goals against average. The following year, Horrigan made 24 starts during the regular season, improving his individual numbers significantly to the tune of a .913 save percentage and a 2.60 goals against average. In the playoffs, he made another 12 starts en route to Cherrey Cup and Sutherland Cup championships.
“That was phenomenal,” he said. “That was one of the coolest things, to go on that run with that group of guys. That team was second to none and the community seemed to come out with even more of an emphasis than I thought was possible.”
He returned for a final season in 2011-12 and took over the bulk of the minutes between the pipes. Over 34 starts, he put up a .918 save percentage and a 2.46 goals against average.
His stellar play and strong reputation with the Kings led to a scholarship to play division three NCAA hockey with the SUNY Geneseo Knights. There, he excelled over two seasons and 40 games, compiling 24 wins on a .931 save percentage and a 2.13 goals against average.
“The biggest thing that attracted me to Geneseo was that that team is very much community oriented, like the Kings are, and the sense of family and tradition are two big, big things they emphasize,” he said. “I like to say it was almost my Elmira of New York. That is definitely what attracted me, was the sense that it didn’t feel like I was leaving the place that I had called home for the previous three years.”
After graduating in May, Horrigan came back to Ontario where he has been working with kids at numerous goalie schools and camps.
Eager to share his passion and experience for the game with the next generation of Kings, Horrigan jumped at the opportunity to return to the fold in Elmira as a member of head coach Jeff Flanagan and director of hockey operation Jeff Snyder’s staff.
“Nick’s a young guy but he’s played high-level hockey and has had great coaching,” Snyder said. “We think he’s got a great knowledge of the position, and to be honest, coaches in general don’t always know a lot about goaltending, so goaltenders certainly make the best goalie coaches. I think he’ll really be able to help our goalies come along and he’ll be able to relate to them on the ups and downs.”
For his part, Horrigan says his focus will be less about the X’s and O’s of the position and more on the psychological aspects.
“I feel personally that the game is mostly mental,” he said. “You can teach a guy everything in the book, but if his head isn’t right, it doesn’t matter because he’s not going to be able to stop the puck. So I really want to instill that swagger in my goaltenders, the belief that if the shooter is going to beat me, he’s going to have to make a perfect shot. Also, the resiliency in the goaltenders, so that when they do let in a goal, and they are going to, that’s the name of the game, that it’s over with and they can move on. There are going to be bad bounces and bad goals, but it’s the way that you handle that next shot that is the most important thing.”
Horrigan takes over for Mike Parsons who will join the staff of the Hamilton Bulldogs of the Ontario Hockey League for the upcoming season.
He’ll have his work cut out for him, since starter Jonathan Reinhart left Elmira to play in the British Columbia Hockey Junior League shortly after the team lost in the Sutherland Cup semi-finals last spring.