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University goalie serves as Sharks' emergency backup

Friday, 01.21.2011 / 3:12 AM / NHL Insider

By Nolan Kelly - Special to NHL.com

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Jordan White is usually an avid fan of the Vancouver Canucks. Just not on Thursday night.

The 22-year-old goaltender for the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds found himself on the San Jose Sharks' bench at Vancouver's Rogers Arena after signing a one-day amateur tryout contract. The Sharks needed a goaltender in a hurry when Antero Niittymaki went down with a lower-body injury during the morning skate -- too late to get a backup goaltender from their AHL farm team, the Worcester Sharks, in time for the game against the Canucks.

Enter White, the starting goaltender for UBC's Thunderbirds. He wore No. 35 in white and teal as he stepped onto the ice in front of a sellout crowd that included his parents and several friends. White took shots during the warmup, but he didn’t see any action in San Jose's 2-1 shootout victory.

"I knew I was going to get to stop some shots and be out on the ice with the guys and that Nemo (Antti Niemi) was going to be in goal for the night," said White, who had three years of major junior experience in the WHL before going to college.

"It was just exciting. It was an experience I'll remember for a while."

The 6-foot-2 native of Surrey, B.C., grew up rooting for the Canucks, but he didn’t have any trouble switching his allegiance -- at least for a night.

"I’ve been a Canucks supporter for a while," he said, "but not tonight."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan joked after the win that the team might want to keep White around a little longer.

"Whitey may be our good-luck charm," McLellan said after the Sharks won their third in a row. "We had the fathers for the first two games of the (winning streak) and Whitey for this one. Maybe we need to keep him around for a few more."

Instead, while the Sharks left for San Jose, White prepared to return to life as a college goaltender -- a morning practice on Friday, followed by a human kinetics lecture and a game against the Regina Cougars at night.

He didn't anticipate any problems reverting from a Shark to a Thunderbird

"It was a great experience, all the moments exceeded everything I thought they’d be," he said. "But tomorrow I’m focused on playing for my team and getting us into the playoffs."

White didn't get any money for his NHL cameo, but at least he got to leave with the shirt on his back.

"I didn’t get paid for the game," he said, "but the jersey, and the hat are all I need to remember this experience."

White isn't the first UBC goaltender to get a brief trip to the big time. On Dec. 9, 2003, the Vancouver Canucks signed third-string T-Birds goalie Chris Levesque to a one-day contract to back up Johan Hedberg when the Canucks hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Nor is White the first goaltender to be signed "off the street" and dress for a game this season. When Phoenix starter Ilya Bryzgalov got sick at the morning skate in New York last month, the Coyotes signed former college goaltender Tom Fenton to back up Jason LaBarbera. Fenton, who played at American International College before graduating in 2009, had been working in community relations at nearby Manhattanville College. He dressed and took shots in warmups but didn't play in the 4-3 shootout loss.

The Penguins also signed 18-year-old junior goaltender Alexander Pechurski to an amateur tryout contract for their game at Vancouver on Jan. 16, 2010. Pechurski, a late-round draft pick by the Penguins who played for the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League, was signed because the Pens were without injured starter Marc-Andre Fleury and backup Brent Johnson. When Vancouver scored five times against John Curry, Pechurski wound up playing most of the last two periods, allowing just one goal on 13 shots in a 6-2 loss.

Quote of the Day

As a player, it's obviously a sad day, but to be on the ice with some of those guys and show our respect as both teams did around center ice, it's definitely a nice touch.

— New Jersey d-man Damon Severson on the ceremony to honor the fallen Canadian soldiers before the game Saturday in Ottawa
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