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Mitchell Gibson Setting Bar For NAHL Netminders

Photo courtesy of Rebekah Bing Photography: Mitchell Gibson faces down faces down Evan Somoza in the Lone Star Brahmas' 4-1 win over the Odessa Jackalopes on Oct 28, 2017.

 

The past 12 months have been a whirlwind for Lone Star Brahmas’ netminder Mitchell Gibson. The 6’ 1” – 186 pound native of Phoenixville, PA went from committing to play NCAA D-I hockey at Harvard University, to being named “Great American Goalie” in the AYHL Playoffs with the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers, to selection in the 2017 NAHL Entry Draft, to inclusion on the NHL Prospects to Watch for 2018.

Gibson describes himself as a technically sound goalie that is explosive on his skates to position himself well. “I do not model my game after any one particular goalie, I definitely look to them for inspiration. I do what feels natural to me and will stop the most pucks.”

Rebekah Bing Photography

As with the vast majority of players who reach the NAHL, Gibson began skating at a fairly young age. He was seven when his older brother first showed an interest in goaltending, but it was determined that he was too old to make the transition to the position. So “Gibby” as he is known by teammates volunteered to go between the pipes. Besides providing a foundation for his future success in the game Gibson pointed out that it also provided an outlet for his older brother to “beat up” his little brother by firing pucks at him. There was no magical moment that made Gibson realize goaltending was his destiny, but rather a more gradual love for the craft that cemented his place in the crease.

Fast forward to June 7, 2017 and the NAHL Entry Draft, Gibson received a phone call from Brahmas’ Assistant Coach Justin Hale just hours before the draft letting him know that Lone Star intended to call his name that afternoon if he was still on the board. Lone Star took Gibson in the second round of the draft with the 45th overall selection. While he had limited contact with the Brahmas before his selection, he was honored to be drafted and very happy to be joining the defending NAHL Robertson Cup National Champions.

Lone Star got off to a shaky start to the season despite a red hot start from Gibson posting three straight shutouts and going 232:36 before allowing a goal. Even with the blazing start Gibson came out of his first four games with a 2-0-0-2 record dropping two of his decisions in shootouts. “It was certainly a peculiar start to the season,” recalled Gibson. “I was content with my play; however, the team was losing. So I definitely had to push myself harder and harder until we finally started to put some wins on the board.”

Gibson has since put up some very strong numbers allowing three or more goals only five times in his 21 games so far this season. He currently ranks third in the league with a 1.66 Goals Against Average and fourth with a 0.932 Save Percentage to go along with his NAHL leading 12 wins and four Shutouts. He has been recognized in the Bauer Hockey-NAHL Player of the Week selections three times this season, once each as the First Star of the Week, Second Star and Honorable Mention. He was also named as the Vaughn Goalie of the Month for September and Honorable Mention for the month of October.

Much of his success he attributes to his Brahmas teammates determination to sacrifice their bodies blocking shots and clearing pucks at critical moments. He also praises goaltending partner Harrison Feeney who pushes him every day in practice and in games. The two played together previously in the Jr. Flyers organization, so they know each other’s style well allowing them to honestly critique each other. Feeney has also been able to share his experiences in the league which has helped Gibson adjust to the NAHL level of play. “My teammates have the biggest influence on me on and off the ice. At this level, you want to do it for the guy sitting next to you. Everyday my teammates work hard for me so I feel I have to do the same for them.”

Hockey parents make many sacrifices to help their sons grow and advance their hockey careers. One of the best ways that a player can repay those sacrifices is to sign an NCAA commitment. Signing with an Ivy League program like Harvard is icing on the cake. “As proud as I am of my commitment, I feel I can never repay my parents for years they have dedicated to my dreams and goals.”

His commitment to Harvard brought a sense of clarity for Gibson allowing him to focus on the task at hand in the NAHL. “I think when I was less mature I was always concerned with what the scouts had to say or who was watching me. Now, I can simply focus on developing which is a very free feeling.” That focus has extended to the daily grind of Junior Hockey. “Day in and day out you have to train and perform at your very best if you want to have any success. It becomes a business at this stage.” Understanding how to deal with those challenges and to keep himself ready to go will serve Gibson well at the next level and a potential professional career.

Playing in arguably the toughest division in the NAHL only serves to further Gibson’s development. “The South offers a unique brand of hockey. It is a rough and tough league, requiring every player, especially goalies, to be mentally tough and focus on the task at hand,” according to Gibson.  “Brahmaland is one of the most fun atmospheres I have ever been a part of. The fans are incredibly passionate which helps the players on the ice, giving us a little more juice to play our best.”

The NAHL has turned into somewhat of a goalie factory over the past few years and Gibson the latest to draw the attention of NHL teams and NHL Central Scouting. “The NHL attention was certainly something I wasn’t expecting. I feel there is so much out of my control in that process that I never really think about it,” he said. “I am only concerned with performing my best no matter the situation and help my team win.”

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