When the Knights selected Christian Stoever in the third round of the 2017 NAHL Draft, they knew they had found an asset between the pipes.
“Christian is a super-talented, young goaltender that will be able to jump in and play juniors right away,” said Knights assistant GM Justin Schreiber following the Knights final pick. “We are very excited about Christian’s future and his time in the Knights crease.”
The 2000-born netminder went on to win 21 total games through his rookie campaign and proved to be a linchpin for the Knights NAHL postseason run. His body of work earned him a spot on the NAHL’s All-East Division Rookie team and a pair of games in the USHL.
“I’d describe my style of play as aggressive,” said Stoever. “I like to play the puck a lot. I get into playing and helping out my teammates. I’m definitely a competitive kid on the ice. I’m on the big side at 6-2. I can stand my ground when I need to. I like to assert my game around my angles and my positioning.”
“Christian played a big part in winning the East Division in playoffs this past season, and going to the Robertson Cup Final Four,” said Knights head coach Tom Kowal. “He’s the type of player that steps up when the lights shine the brightest and when the stage is the biggest. He’s the type of goalie that can steal a game or backstop a winning streak. He did both for us this year.”
On Tuesday, Stoever announced his commitment to Merrmiack College, an NCAA Div. I program that competes in the Hockey East Association. The Massachusetts-based college won a division II national championship in 1977-78 before jumping to division I in 1984. Since then, the college has produced a number of alumni that went on to play in the NHL, including journeymen like defensemen John Jakopin and Steve McKenna, among others.
Stepping into the role of head coach for the Warriors this season is Scott Borek, an alumni of Dartmouth with years of division one coaching experience, something that stuck with Stoever during the recruiting process.
“I really was impressed with the coaching staff,” he said. “They made me feel wanted. They have a lot of experience at the division one level and they let me know they wanted me to play for Merrimack. I’m excited to develop my game there. Hopefully that leads to getting an opportunity to one day signing a pro contract somewhere and fulfill my dream of playing pro hockey.”
2017-18 was a first for Stoever as well, as the 2017-18 was his first season of junior hockey. After playing in 43 regular and postseason games, the goalie has gained an appreciation for what the North American Hockey League has done for his development.
“Having played one year in the NAHL, I’d definitely recommend it to future junior players. “I feel like it has gotten me ready for the USHL and ready to make that jump, and then after that make another jump to college hockey.
His well-documented performance in the playoffs this past season goes down as the best in the Knights brief NAHL history, as Stoever moves forward as the organization’s all-time NAHL leader in playoff minutes (539), games played (9), wins (6), GAA (1.89), and save percentage (.949).
“It definitely raised my confidence a lot, just showing what we could do as a team,” said Stoever of the Knights postseason effort. “I’m not sure if I’d be in this situation right now if not for that run. I’m thankful for it, thankful for the teammates, and how we all played and stepped up. It was definitely a good last month and a half with everyone.”
When asked to describe his favorite part of being a Knight, Stoever echoed the sentiment of others players moving on this summer in his appreciation for the chemistry his teammates shared.
“Probably the guys,” he said of what he’d miss most. “Even though it was only one year, I think we made too many memories just to pick one favorite. It had to be my teammates. We all still talk every day. I definitely love those guys.”
Through it all, Stoever understands who’s helped him along the way, particularly those who have been in his corner since day one.
“My dad,” he said. “He’s been around my entire hockey career. He’s definitely spent a lot of money on me over the years, moving from Florida to Michigan just for hockey. He made a lot of sacrifices along with my whole family so I could play hockey.”
“We’re here to move all our players onto the next level of hockey, but they can also help move your program forward,” said Kowal. “Christian was a big part of a big step forward for our organization in the playoffs this past season. He’s an incredibly talented goalie who has the potential to add even bigger things to his resume as he continues to develop. I’m proud of what he’s accomplished for us and for himself. I wish him the best of luck at Merrimak and I can’t wait to see where his career takes him.”
The Knights thank Christian for the time and effort he contributed to the team, and wish him nothing but the best as he moves forward in his career and education!