Sometimes goaltenders are just plain weird.
There are words that come to mind within hockey circles — isolated, different, free spirited. Suffice it to say goalies don’t always relate easily to the teammates skating up and down the ice around them, even those they know best.
Cal Petersen is, apparently, none of those things. And that’s more or less how Petersen, a junior, became what’s believed to be the first goaltender to captain the Notre Dame hockey team.
“I think he’s totally fine and normal,” said center Jake Evans, Petersen’s roommate. “I’ve played with some goalies that I don’t wanna be caught in a room with. He’s so mature. He’s definitely mature beyond his years. I think he’s one of the most caring guys on the team. If he sees somebody down he’s gonna text them, go up to them and make sure everything is alright.”
Certainly there’s more to the selection than Petersen not being aloof.
There’s this, for starters: It’s generally a positive when a team’s best players double as leaders. Petersen started all 37 games for Notre Dame last season with a .927 save percentage and 2.20 goals-against average. His save percentage ranks as the third best single season mark in program history.
And those numbers got better in Hockey East play, where Petersen posted a .937 save percentage and 1.77 goals-against average.
Petersen has compiled a 2.34 goals-against average, .923 save percentage and five shutouts in 70 games played over the course of his first two seasons. The highest career save percentage in program history is Jordan Pearce at .918.
In short, Petersen has been the type of performer that inspires confidence.
“In practice he might not give me some confidence,” Evans said. “He keeps saving them on me. But in games, he’s got your back. You definitely don’t want to leave him out to dry. If you start slow, he’s there. If you’re having a couple minutes off, he’s there. It definitely adds to your confidence.”
Petersen won’t be a captain in the traditional sense on game days.
There’s no conferencing with officials during replay review or when the action is getting a little chippy. That responsibility will be left to the assistant captains — Evans, forward Anders Bjork and defenseman Luke Ripley.
Instead most of Petersen’s captaincy will come outside the spotlight, on the practice ice or in the dressing room.
Petersen took notes from Steven Fogarty, a two-time captain, over the last couple seasons. He’s also come to this point through the team’s bigger leadership group. Petersen played a lesser role there last season as a sophomore.
“It’s definitely a very unique situation,” Petersen said. “I haven’t heard of it happening very much. But it’s kind of a day-by-day process. A lot of it happens off the ice. I think the on-ice stuff the other three guys will have just as big an impact helping out with the team. It’s definitely something that’s really cool. But it’s a day-by-day process and learning as I go.”
Captaincy isn’t likely to change much about Petersen’s approach. Teammates have been taking his lead for awhile, especially given his consistently strong level of play.
“He’s probably as respected as any player on our team,” head coach Jeff Jackson said. “He’s probably as good a communicator as any player on our team. Now when we show up for game nights, I’ve already explained it to the four of them, he’s shut down from that role. He’s gotta be focused on playing because he’s in a unique position and he can’t communicate with the officials anyways. It’s a rule. So his job as a leader is gonna be in his performance just like he did last year. It’s always good if one of your best players is also your captain and he certainly is one of our top players.”