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Keetley has big year, looks to make jump to pros

by Mike Board / Calgary Flames

Matt Keetley has had a whirlwind year in hockey.

He began by participating in the Calgary Flames training camp last fall. He was then returned to Medicine Hat of the Western Hockey League where he proceeded to have his best season as a junior goalie, recording 42 wins in the regular season and being named an all-star.

But the best was still to come as Keetley stopped 37 of 39 shots he faced in the Game 7 WHL championship final against the Vancouver Giants as the Tigers claimed the WHL with a 3-2 win in double overtime.

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Keetley was named MVP of the WHL playoffs, posting a 16-7 record a 2.18 goals against average and logging more ice time than any other goalie in the playoffs, 1,407 minutes.

Having left the Flames training camp with one goal in mind -- winning the Memorial Cup -- everything was falling into place for Keetley, the 21-year-old who hails from Medicine Hat and was chosen in the fifth round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by the Flames.

The Giants, however, would have  their day. Playing in front of a packed Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, the Giants defeated Keetley and the Tigers 3-1 in the championship final.

"I had dreamed of winning a Memorial Cup but that didn't happen. We played hard and there were a lot of Tigers fans there but there were 14,000 Vancouver fans in that building," said Keetley.

Despite losing in the final, Keetley was named the Memorial Cup MVP, allowing just six goals on 118 shots, for a .949 save percentage.

"It was amazing. All in all it was one of those great seasons," said Keetley.

The 6'2" goalie spends his off-season in Calgary, training with the Crash program, and is very much looking forward to moving his career ahead in the professional ranks after four successful years in junior. Actually, make that very successful -- 105 wins in 152 games.

"Now I'm ready to make the next step and see how pro goes," said Keetley, who will attend the Flames prospect camp in mid-July in Calgary and compete against other goalies in the Flames system, including first round draft pick and fellow NHLer Leland Irving.

"It's a big step. You are now playing with men, not boys. I have to be ready to play at that next level," said Keetley.

Having spent the last two summers in Calgary getting fit, Keetley feels he is ready to make the jump to the pros. He'd love to make the Flames and back-up Miikka Kiprusoff but there are plenty of goalies in the Flames stable, including Brent Krahn and Curtis McElhinney, both of whom have been grooming their skills with the Flames top affiliate in the American Hockey League for the last couple of seasons.

"You go into every camp and you want to make the big team," said Keetley. "If you don't and you get sent down, you can't settle for it. You have to keep working and make it happen."
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