Ontario Reign Head Coach Mike Stothers described goaltender Cal Petersen simply as "Cal-like" after a 41-save shutout on Friday against San Jose.
When your name is an adjective to describe stellar goaltending play, you know you're doing something right.
"Cal was outstanding," Stothers said on Friday. "The game could have shifted very easily, he was solid, he looked square, he almost looked like he knew exactly what the other team was going to do before they were doing it. He was Cal-like."
Saturday featured more of the same for 40+ minutes. Fresh off the shutout on Opening Night, Petersen was outstanding again as he started back-to-back games - he kept the defending Pacific Division champion Bakersfield Condors off the scoreboard for 43:15 and made 42 saves on 44 shots overall as Ontario won 3-2 in overtime.
Petersen's display over the two games shook out to a 2-0-0 record, a 0.96 goals against average and a .976 save percentage, along with one of just three shutouts posted around the AHL on Opening Weekend. The Waterloo, Iowa native leads the league in G.A.A. and SV% among goalies that have played twice and was named as the AHL's Player of the Week earlier today for his efforts.
Petersen made a pair of sprawling saves on Friday night, one with the left pad and another with the glove. The latter was so wild, two Barracuda players threw back their heads to stare up to the heavens, while a third put both arms in the air, thinking his team had finally got a puck past Petersen.
"I mean, it was definitely good," Petersen said of Friday's game. "I felt good in there and I got a chance to make some big saves, they always look good when they go well. I was just happy - you want the season to start off on a high note and I think we did as a team and I was able to put together a solid game as well, so it feels good."
Petersen's play on Friday wasn't lost on his teammates, either.
While the Reign played well, overall, on Friday, forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan noted the comfort level of having Petersen behind he and his teammates when mistakes did happen.
"He's probably one of the best goalies in the league," Anderson-Dolan said. "It showed tonight, some of those saves he's making he shouldn't be able to make and it's definitely comforting to know you have him back there, but at the same time, you can't be giving up some of those chances that we gave up. Without a goalie like that, those are in the back of the net."
Fast forward less than 24 hours to Saturday and Petersen put on a show once again, possibly even outdoing what he did on Friday. Facing perhaps the deepest forward group in the Pacific Division, Petersen held the Condors at bay for more than two periods and made several key saves down the stretch in the third to will the Reign into overtime, where they would later win on Mario Kempe's game-winning goal.
The brightest stop of them all was a left-to-right glove save that left even the Bakersfield Condors team Twitter account tipping their caps.
"He was unbelievable, and so he was at our home game yesterday too" Kempe said of Petersen after the victory. "He gave us a chance to win and we've got to thank him."
While Friday night saw Stothers describe Petersen with his own adjective, he was nearly at a loss for ways to praise Petersen's play, after all he has done over the past 2+ seasons with the Reign.
None the less, Stothers made clear that Petersen's play was a big reason the Reign earned a victory in both games and an even bigger reason why then Reign started the season 2-0.
"He was real solid for us again tonight," Stothers said on Saturday. "I mean, I don't know what more superlatives you can say about him. He just stands tall, he covers up for some mistakes. He makes the routine saves and then he makes the difficult saves actually look routine too. Real good."
Now in his third season, Petersen has already transitioned from wide-eyed rookie to season veteran. It's hard to imagine that Petersen, who is 12 days shy of his 25th birthday, is now considered a "vet", but looking around the Reign roster, it's clear he's made that jump.
"I was mentioning it to some of the guys, you go from your first few years, [when] you kind of feel like a young guy and now all of a sudden you feel like an old guy," Petersen said with a smile. "I think it's really exciting. We've got younger players that are playing a more important role and are going to be the future of the Kings someday. It's good for all these guys to play together and start that culture that eventually is going to help the Kings."
While no one who watched the Reign play this weekend would mistake Petersen as "old", he has become a key part of Ontario's leadership group, on and off the ice.
As the Reign now look ahead to another pair of games this weekend, both at home, expect Petersen to retain his place in the crease. If his play is anything like what we saw in the weekend prior, we might need to consult a thesaurus to find the new words to use.