When Cal Petersen was first assigned to the AHL in early December, his first interview was here on MayorsManor. At the time, he spoke about the move to Ontario coming as a shock, yet didn’t take too long flipping the switch in his mind. “It’s different, it’s an adjustment,” he said back then. “But I’m going to make it the best thing for me right now. [I know] where I want to be, and this is the route to get there. That’s the way I’m going to look at it.”
Nearly four months later, it’s safe to say things haven’t played out exactly as the 28-year-old netminder had probably hoped. He’s still with the Reign, while the Kings traded Jonathan Quick for Joonas Korpisalo, and he’s manning the LA crease with Pheonix Copley. It’s a sentence nobody could have predicted back in training camp.
“I wasn’t really knowing what to expect or anything, it was kind of the first time that there was a little bit of uncertainty around the Trade Deadline,” Petersen shared upon reflection. “Quickie was a great goalie partner with me. We’re very good friends, we’re very close. From that standpoint, and his legacy with the Kings, obviously that was a shock. Just like it was to anybody. For me, though, I just want to be where I’m at. I just want to play really meaningful hockey down here. I want to play a lot of playoff hockey. Right now, I’m trying to be the best I can be down here. And if there’s ever an opportunity, that’s what I’m going to be ready for up there, as well.”
During his stint with Ontario in the 2022-23 season, Petersen has continued to work on his game and finetune things, regardless of if he’s coming off a win or a loss. And even though he doesn’t get as much time with LA’s goalie guru, Bill Ranford, as he used to, he seems more than content to work with Matt Millar – the organization’s other goaltending development coach.
“We’re just trying to work every day to be the best we can,” Petersen explained. “Billy has his guys to worry about and I think Matt is doing a great job of worrying about me and [Matt Villalta]. We have a great relationship and he’s willing to put in the work with me that I want to do. So, it’s been fantastic from that standpoint. For me, it’s always been about day-by-day working to be the best version of myself, wherever I am.”
In three previous seasons with the Reign, Petersen had played 37, 38, and 41 games. He’s currently appeared in 36 games this season, so it’s been anything but a part-time gig. He’s getting the bulk of the starts for coach Marco Sturm and has put up respectable numbers. His .904 save percentage is nearing his career-best in the AHL, which was .910 in his rookie campaign. Additionally, his 2.92 goals against average would again not quite match the 2.58 of 2017-18, but it’s over a goal below what he produced over the next two seasons there. Some may point to the 15-17-4 record, yet that’s more of a reflection of the team game at that level. Sure, he’s had his off nights; those have been matched with stellar performances in other games. For example, the power play has gone 0-for-10 over the past two games. That certainly impacted the outcome of those contests and can’t directly be tied to goaltender performance when looking at two games that ended up being losses.
“I think it was good that we kind of went through it when we did, it didn’t really hurt us too bad in the standings,” he remarked when talking about the Reign’s 10-game losing streak last month. “Better then than right before the playoffs. I think we learned how to win as a team and the things that we’re going to need to do consistently to be able to be successful once the playoffs role around. It was a longer skid than we would have wanted, but I think those are the kind of things that you have to learn during that type of situation.”
As the season winds to an end here over the next few weeks, Petersen is hyper-focused on the post-season and helping find a way to take the Reign on a deep run.
“There’s very important hockey to be played down here, with guys that are the future of the Kings,” he said, in almost a boasting way, a proud declaration. “I still want to be a part of that, and working towards that. This is an awesome opportunity for me to play a lot of games and play some meaningful hockey down the stretch. I’ve already done it before. Especially with goalies, there’s a lot of translation between playing well here and playing well in the NHL. It’s not this huge giant jump, especially for goaltenders. So I think this is good, to get a ton of reps, a ton of opportunities to play and, again, play some meaningful hockey down the stretch.
Even with all the talent that’s come through Ontario through the years, the club still hasn’t had an extended playoff run. Could this be the year?
“That’s definitely the plan,” he said with a big smile. “We had a good team here my rookie year. We just lost to a good team in the first round. That was another team that I think could have gone far. Then, we kind of went through a little bit of our own rebuild the next couple years that I was here in the AHL. Right now, I think we have a team that can do some damage. We’re starting to plug a few holes and playoff hockey is the best, no matter what league you’re playing in. I think those are really important opportunities and experiences that translate to whatever league that you’re playing in. The same things that I’m working on and learning down here will help me in the long run, when I get back up there.”
Lead photo by Daniel Stopani
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