Last Line of Defense

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How goal-tending in hockey has evolved in recent years. Interview with Yaroslav Ozolin ( MHL Junior Hockey League goalkeeper for REAKTOR HC ).

Special thanks to Ross McLennan.

One of my regular readers Ross McLennan requested that I conduct an interview with a goalkeeper.
Ross was a goalkeeper in his youth is interested in the equipment used, as well as the overall role of players in this position.

While the Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik team were on the road playing away games, I had the opportunity to ask Yaroslav Ozolin some questions. Yaroslav is a goalkeeper for Reaktor – Neftekhimik’s developmental youth team in the MHL Junior Hockey League.

I have written about the developmental system before in my previous article entitled “Stars of the Future” which included an exclusive interview with Reaktor’s Head Trainer Viacheslav Alexandrovich Kasatkin.
Mr. Kasatkin was kind enough to direct me towards the warm-up room prior to one of Reaktor’s regular training sessions so I could speak to Yaroslav.

Ozolin stands at a towering 194cm (6 feet, 4 inches), and at just 18 years old, he has already been playing in goal for 8 years.

How was Yaroslav introduced to hockey?
“My father first put me on a pair of skates when I was four years old. I got the hang of it quite quickly. He could see I had no trouble skating. My father made the decision to sign me up for hockey training at a young age. I’ve trained at Neftekhimik since childhood.
My first trainer was Vadim Sergeyevich Gusev. I owe everything to him. Gusev and my father decided to put me in goal when I was ten years old and my ability in goal overshadowed anything I could do when playing in other positions.”

Who are his favourite goalkeepers?
“I follow the career of Henrik Lundquist. He plays for the New York Rangers in the NHL.
As far as the KHL is concerned, I obviously look to Neftekhimik’s Ilya Yezhov as an example, and Juha Metsola who plays for Salavat Ufa.”

In the 8 years he has been goal-tending, has Yaroslav noticed changes in equipment?
“Yes, it has undergone rapid changes. This is a subject that interests me. I have studied the science behind the design. The equipment has become lighter and more durable. I think it will continue to evolve, but not at such a fast rate of change as we have seen in recent years.”

Regular reader Ross McLennan adds:
“Growing up, when I used to play in goal (1994—2004) the leg pads were made with real leather and were much shorter. They finished a few inches above the knee and absorbed the moisture from the ice. They gradually became heavier during games and practice. After a season or so, the knees of the pads would lose some of their coating and would start to absorb even more water.
It was the same situation with the catch glove. The catch glove is held out and open at all times. At later stages of a game it would’ve already become soggy and heavy. It was a hard task to hold it up for an entire game.”

Thank you to Ross and to Yaroslav for their interaction and insight into the world hockey goalkeeping.

Ross McLennan is currently a guitarist in the death metal band ABHORRENT DECIMATION. Find out everything about them at.

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