KENSINGTON, P.E.I. – Chad Arsenault developed a passion for goaltending at a young age.
Hard work, a desire to improve and a proven ability to deliver under pressure has resulted in the Grade 11 student at Evangeline School getting a lot of attention.
Not only is Arsenault enjoying a strong regular season in the New Brunswick/P.E.I. Major Midget Hockey League, but he backstopped the Kensington Monaghan Farms Wild to the 2018 Monctonian AAA Challenge title in November, allowing just five goals in four playoff games. Then, last weekend, Arsenault was named the top goaltender of the 2019 Chronicle Herald East Coast Ice Jam tournament in Bedford, N.S., as the Wild rode his goaltending to the championship game, losing a 1-0 heartbreaker to the Moncton Flyers in overtime.
“That was a lot of fun,” reflected Arsenault. “We played really well defensively. The defence made my job easier for sure.
“I just had some fun, and I am at the top of my game when I’m having fun.”
Again, Arsenault was a model of consistency, allowing only five goals in six Ice Jam games. More impressive, considering the calibre of opposition the Wild faced, is he did not give up more than one goal in any of his starts.
Along with the final against the New Brunswick/P.E.I. league’s first-place Flyers, Arsenault allowed just one goal in two wins against the Nova Scotia Major Midget Hockey League-leading Cole Harbour WolfPack, and allowed the second-place Halifax McDonald’s only one goal.
“He played the best teams in Atlantic Canada last weekend, and shut them down,” said Wild head coach Kyle Dunn. “We fell just a little short and couldn’t get him the one goal against Moncton, but he played well.
“The guys play pretty confident in front of him, and he’s a great anchor back there.”
“Chad has a high-level IQ when it comes to reading plays and releases of shots. In my experience with the midget league the last couple of years, I haven’t seen anything like it.``
-Wild goaltending coach Nelson MacAulay
Did You Know
- Chad Arsenault made his debut in the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League) before family and friends on New Year’s Eve.
- The Valley Wildcats, who enter weekend play with a league-worst 5-25-4 (won-lost-overtime losses) record, called Arsenault up from the Kensington Wild for a game in Summerside against the Western Capitals.
- Arsenault turned in a solid 39-save effort against the highest-scoring team in the MHL as the Caps pulled out a 4-1 win before over 3,200 fans. The Caps scored all four goals in the opening period, but Arsenault stopped all 17 shots he faced in the middle frame and 11 in the final 20 minutes to keep the score respectable.
- The Wildcats selected Arsenault in the fourth round, 37th overall, in the 2018 MHL Entry Draft.
Wild goaltending coach Nelson MacAulay says Arsenault has one important attribute that stands out.
“Chad has a high-level IQ when it comes to reading plays and releases of shots,” explained MacAulay. “In my experience with the midget league the last couple of years, I haven’t seen anything like it.
“He reads the play so well that I’m sure he would be an excellent forward or defenceman if he played somewhere else. He sees what is going to happen next, and he is able to get there. He knows what works well for himself, and the biggest thing we do together is how do we make Chad Arsenault stop more pucks?”
When asked how his game has evolved since he joined the Wild, Arsenault noted there has been one major adjustment.
“I’ve grown into more of a standup goalie, trying to hold my feet because that’s what I need to do with my size,” explained the five-foot-seven-and-a-half-inch and 165-pound Arsenault, who is from St. Raphael, near Wellington. “There’s a lot of net exposed up top, so I need to use my feet as much as I can.”
Playing goal is something the soft-spoken and polite 16-year-old son of Raymond and Susan Arsenault has been doing – and loving every minute of it – most of his life.
“I tried it in skills and played quite a bit of ball hockey with my dad in the basement,” said Arsenault. “I just enjoyed going in the net. It was a lot of fun.”
Arsenault does admit his choice of position may result in some occasional stressful moments for his parents, especially pressure-filled close games.
“It’s nerve-racking, especially for my mom,” said a smiling Arsenault. “They enjoy it when I have big games, and they have learned to adapt to it.”
There may be more stressful moments for the Arsenault family in the future. Arsenault, who has one year of midget eligibility remaining, was drafted by the Charlottetown Islanders of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Valley Wildcats of the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League) in June 2018, following a strong rookie season with the Wild.
“Chad is finally getting taken seriously,” said MacAulay. “In the past, there was always somebody saying, ‘If he was a little bit bigger he might be able to get there.’
“Now the tune is changing that somehow he is going to get there, and I think in the future he will get to that next level.”
Arsenault has heard people saying he is too small, but he doesn’t “really pay attention” to it.
“There’s nothing I can do about it, so I just have to work with what I got,” said Arsenault, who joined the Wild after graduating from the O’Leary-based Prince County Warriors’ major bantam program.
Instead, Arsenault is relying on a second-to-none work ethic.
“I don’t have the size and the best technique, so that is what I have to do to get to the next level,” he said. “I just have to work.”
Arsenault’s compete level is something that has not gone unnoticed.
“He’s probably one of the hardest workers on our team,” emphasized Dunn. “His work ethic is a testament to his success on the ice.”
Chad Arsenault’s statistics with Kensington Wild:
N.B./P.E.I. Major Midget Hockey League
- 14 games
- 10 wins
- 3 losses
- 1 overtime loss
- 2 shutouts
- 2.49 goals-against average
- .920 save percentage
- 18 games
- 16 wins
- 1 loss
- 1 overtime loss
- 2 shutouts
- 2.04 goals-against average
- .934 save percentage
Arsenault teamed with veteran Caleb Coyle in his rookie season with the Wild, a situation MacAulay described as a perfect fit.
“Having CC there last year as a mentor for him really helped Chad out,” said MacAulay. “Coyle was a guy who was never too high or too low when it came to big games.
“Chad was able to see how Caleb carried himself on the ice, and hopefully he was able to take a lot away from him. That’s what you want out of a goalie partner.”
Arsenault’s calm demeanour and a strong focus are well-suited traits for his demanding position.
“I don’t get too worked up,” Arsenault said. “I just try to mind my own business.
“If someone chirps me I usually don’t say anything, and just try to stay calm. . .
“I just want to try and stay consistent, and have some fun.”
It’s game day for the Kensington Wild:
- The Wild hosts the Fredericton Caps at Credit Union Centre on Saturday. The opening faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
- The Wild sits in second place in the New Brunswick/P.E.I. Major Midget Hockey League at 21-5-1 (won-lost-tied). The Caps are fifth in the six-team league at 7-14-4.
- This will be the first meeting between the Wild and Caps since Nov. 2. Kensington won the first four head-to-head contests.
- The Wild has eight regular-season games remaining, including five on home ice.
- Third-year forward Ryan Richards of Cornwall leads the Wild in scoring with 37 points in 24 regular-season games. Colby MacArthur of Summerside is one point back of Richards. Both players have scored 13 goals.
- Sophomore Dixon MacLeod and rookie Lucas Parsons are tied for the Wild team lead in goals – 16. Richards has a team-leading 24 assists.
- MacLeod has scored a team-high six power-play goals.
- Parsons leads the Wild with four game-winning tallies.
- Keiran Gallant, with 30 points in 27 games, is the Wild’s top-scoring rookie.