Helena Bighorns goalie Alexander Rogers is an anomaly at the junior level hockey, having only known one position since he was 6 years old: goalie.
"Xander," as he better is better known by his teammates. He knew to tend the net was the only position he ever desired to play for the last 14 seasons.
"I was just so adamant about playing goalie, and wanting to practice (goalie) all of the time," Rogers said. "Playing goalie has just been my main focus. I have wanted to get stronger, faster and focus on stopping the puck my whole career. I've had to figure out how different players have figured out a different way to put the puck in the net."
Rogers, who alternates at goalie with Carver Thompson, saved 31 of 32 shot against the Great Falls American last game to help catapult his team to the first game of the Fraser Cup against the Lewistown-Auburn Nordiques at 4 p.m. Wednesday in Chicago.
Bighorns coach Bob Rogers was quick to credit the goal-play of both Rogers and Thompson for allowing their team to defeat both the Missoula Junior Bruins and the Great Falls Americans. The Bighorns upended both teams in the best-of-3 series that went the distance.
"Both Alexander and Thompson played well, and made a lot of key saves at key times," Richards said. "They (both) kept the game out of reach and didn't allow the Bruins or Americans to give them any life. That was the most encouraging having those goaltenders be some of our best players."
For Rogers, playing at the goalie during critical moments is nothing new. He began his high-level hockey career with the Anaheim Wildcats, a then Triple-A franchise, before moving onto the California Wave for another two seasons until 2016. That allowed him to gain the necessary experience to position himself to see higher-level hockey.
Rogers, who then moved to the New England, Massachusetts area to play for the Lewistown-North Hampton Prep School in the New England Prep Conference, got exposed to some very high-level hockey.
"The hockey was high-pace, and it was prep hockey, as it's called there," Rogers said. "There were a lot of good players going to play NCAA Division-I and Division-II, and they were some top-caliber guys."
From the 2016-2017 to the 2017-2018 season, Rogers played there before playing goalie during the 2018-2019 season with the Helena Bighorns.
Having the option of playing another year with the Bighorns before "aging out," Rogers is still weighing his decision on where to play as he may head into final games as a member of the Bighorns.
"I hope to make a college team, and hopefully get a scholarship, so I don't have to pay a lot for college and burden my parents with college debt," Rogers said.
Rogers will decide on his hockey future after the tournament.
"I am still 19, and I have one more year if I want to play with for the Bighorns," Rogers said. "Nothing is set in stone, and I don't want to give too much away and have something fall through the cracks. I am hoping this experience at nationals will give me some exposure on what I want to do next year."
Jason Blasco is the lead prep sports reporter for the Helena Indepedent-Record and a sports reporter for the 406mtsports.com network.
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