It was not the start to the season goaltender Merek Pipes was hoping for, but persistence has paid off, as the 20-year-old goalie will play for an MJHL championship with the Swan Valley Stampeders.
After missing the first nine games of the season due to an injury with the SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves, Pipes was brilliant in a 30-save win in Weyburn on Oct. 12 when the Ice Wolves clipped the Red Wings 4-2.
Pipes was shipped to the Swan Valley Stampeders in the MJHL in exchange for future considerations early in the season. The Cobble Hill, B.C. product made an immediate impact with his new team when he posted a 22-save shutout at home against the Dauphin Kings Nov. 7.
Following a sensational regular season that saw the Stampeders finish second in the overall standings with a 42-13-5 mark, Swan Valley is set to open the MJHL final against the number one-ranked Portage Terriers tonight (Friday).
“It’s a lot of fun getting into the finals, obviously — and getting to extend the season farther,” said Pipes. “On top of that, Swan Valley has never made it to the finals before, so the town is getting behind us a lot and everyone’s pretty excited for us.”
Pipes had a 20-8 record throughout the regular season with the Stampeders and posted a 2.45 GAA and .924 save percentage. During the post-season so far, Pipes is 8-2 with a 2.78 GAA and .911 save percentage.
“It sounds really cliché, but we’re a really tight-knit group,” said Pipes. “Everyone likes everyone, everyone is willing to lay their body on the line for the team and for everyone else on the team. When you are willing to make those sacrifices and willing to put the team before yourself, I think that’s when things start to happen.”
Meantime, the Stampeders won the season series against the Terriers 4-2.
Earlier this season, when he was still with the La Ronge Ice Wolves, Pipes committed to play at Union College for the 2019-20 season.
Union College is an NCAA Division 1 program located in Schenectady, N.Y.
(PHOTO: Merek Pipes. Photo courtesy of Hockey Night in Manitoba, Twitter.)