By Liam Sample
Eli Shiller is a first-year goaltender for the Plattsburgh men’s hockey team. Since making his start Nov. 11 against Brockport, where he made 21 saves en route to a 9-2 win, he has appeared in six of the next seven of the team’s games.
He is currently 4-2-0 with a .958 save percentage allowing only six total goals over those games. He helped Plattsburgh win the FirstLight Shootout, posting a 23 save shutout Nov. 25 against Middlebury and a career-high 31 saves in the championship game against Norwich Nov. 26. For these efforts, he was awarded tournament MVP. This question and answer was conducted with him.
Q: Walk me through your background, where you were born and then your background in hockey?
A: I was born in Toronto, Ontario, and I started playing hockey ever since I can remember. I think I started skating when I was a couple years old and then you get put into the learn to skate and then have to get all the way through that. So yeah, I was a player at first but I didn’t like sitting on the bench waiting for my next shift, so then I just became a goalie.
Q: How have you kind of adapted to being a college student? In terms of being a student and an athlete too.
A: I went to school last year in Canada. I played rugby there a little bit, not full time, but that helped me adapt to the lifestyle a little bit more. Obviously when you’re out of school for a couple years, it’s hard to adapt. Just going back to school last year really helped me mature for this year.
Q: Walk me through your first start. What was going through your head while it was happening?
A: I knew we were playing Brockport, the team that beat us in the playoffs last year. Obviously, I hadn’t played them before, but I knew it was a more meaningful game to the returning guys because they lost to them last year in the playoffs. I wasn’t too nervous. I was pretty confident. I was mentally prepared, but obviously your first start of the year, you have a little shaky legs, but as soon as you make the first save, you’re pretty dialed, and it also helped that we scored the first shift of the game.
Q: In terms of each game, what’s your mental preparation look like?
A: A lot of naps, a lot of sleeping. I need my sleep, and then once I’m there, depends on the day, but I don’t like to be too focused. Just kind of keep it loose and have some fun.
Q: You talked about the [FirstLight Shootout], you got tournament MVP. Walk me through that entire weekend, and what was it like to be named to that award at the end of it?
A: Before the tournament happened, I guess I didn’t really realize how prestigious the tournament was. I would say kind of a big deal, I don’t know, I just saw it as two more games. On the Friday, the team played really well against Middlebury. I didn’t really have to do too much work that game, and we just played really well as a unit. Then, on the Saturday, we knew Norwich was going to be a better team. They were on home ice. But, I think we played two of our best games all year, which was good timing. We got hot at the right time and I guess winning MVP was pretty cool.
Q: What do you hope to see for the rest of your athletic career?
A: A National Championship.
Q: Next, are you superstitious and if you are, what are your superstitions?
A: I’m not that superstitious. I used to not look at any electronics the day of a game, so I couldn’t look at my phone, my TV, any of that. But I kind of gave up on that. The only one I can think of is I like do my pads up a certain way.
Q: Like tie the knot a certain way?
A: No, they’re leather laces and then you can just pull it through or you can loop it around. For practice, I’ll just pull it through, but then for a game, I’ll loop it back around.
Q: What’s your favorite drill to do in practice?
A: I like the one, it’s like a battle drill and the players go one vs. one, you have to protect the puck. Sometimes, they’ll let the goalies do it, and I just dummy our goalie partners. I just body them.
Q: Do you body Kyle [Alaverdy]?
A: Yeah, Kyle get’s bodied even though he’s pretty heavy. He’s probably got like 50 pounds on me, he gets dummied.
Shiller wanted to give a shout-out to Dejuan, Dylan, DeAndre, Ben and Ryan Burstein, who are friends back in his hometown.