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Oleksiak comments on first pro goal
Oleksiak comments on first pro goal
Oleksiak on first pro goal: “I just closed my eyes and shot as hard as I could”

Scoring your first professional goal is a big deal; after all it only happens once. Not every player’s first goal reaches highlight reel status however. Many are forgettable to all but the scorer and in some cases are at best bittersweet as they arrive during a loss. Not so for Texas Stars rookie defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, who scored his first career professional goal on Wednesday night as the Stars beat the Milwaukee Admirals 3-1 at Cedar Park Center.

It wasn’t some greasy goal that ricocheted off three pairs of legs before dribbling over the goal line. Instead Oleksiak took a clever drop pass from teammate Cody Eakin on a three-on-two rush and sent a blazing wrist shot just under the blocker of Milwaukee goaltender Jeremy Smith at 11:46 of the third period. At the time, Oleksiak gave Texas a 2-0 lead and some much needed insurance, but when the Admirals scored three minutes later, his goal became the game-winner and earned him second star honors.

So how did the Stars rookie react to scoring for the first time as a professional?

“Just disbelief,” said Oleksiak, with a big smile on his face. “Honestly, my eyes kind of shut when I shot the puck and I blacked out and woke up and the next thing I knew the puck was in the net and all the guys were coming towards me. I still didn’t believe it when they said that I scored the goal. Big moment and it was really exciting.”

At 6-foot, seven inches and 254 pounds, the Toronto native is the tallest player on the Stars roster and one of the biggest in the American Hockey League. At the tender age of 19 he is also one of the youngest; he will turn 20 in December. Selected by the Dallas Stars in the first round (14th overall) in the 2011 National Hockey League Entry Draft and playing his first professional season at such a young age, one might assume that things might go to the head of the high profile prospect. Far from it. He is almost apologetic about the attention and has consciously made a point not to overdo it.

“I always thought no celebration is kind of the best. Everyone’s always expecting the big over-the-top, jump into the glass or something like that. Also being the young guy, you don’t want to be the guy that does way too much. I think it looks cool when you look like you’ve been there before. Maxy [Stars captain Maxime Fortunus] told me that Barry Sanders said something like ‘If you act like you’ve been in the end zone 100 times before, then you’ll be there 100 times in the future.’ I like that mentality and I think it’s something that I am going to try to carry forward with me.”

Then he pauses, smiles a little wider and reconsiders his stance a little bit.

“If it takes a long time for me to score my next goal, then I’ll have to do something special. But at the moment I’m just trying to play it cool and pretend like I can make it happen again.”

Even though it was a great goal that demonstrated his composure and talent, Oleksiak’s teammates did not waste an opportunity to keep him grounded.

“Vinny [Texas right wing Tomas Vincour] keeps giving me grief about the goal, because he’s saying I was trying to go top cheddar [roof of the net] and it was pretty much just an inch off the ice. It was a great play by Eakin, making that drop pass and bringing everyone to the side with him. I just closed my eyes and ripped the puck as hard as I could and luckily it went it. It’s definitely something special that I can look back on and be proud of.”

Oleksiak is off to a quick start to his pro career. He has three points (1 goal, 2 assists) in his first six pro games, which puts him into a tie for third place on the Stars in scoring. Last year in 59 combined Ontario Hockey League games for the Saginaw Spirit and the Niagara IceDogs, he collected 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists). Despite being a first round draft pick, he wasn’t feeling the pressure to light lamp right away in his rookie professional season.

“I wasn’t playing games just looking for a goal; my first goal is to win. It was kind of in the back of my mind, you always want to get that first goal and it’s definitely something memorable. When I finally scored, I took a deep breath and tried to take it all in. It was really special.”

And as for his plans with the puck?

“I don’t know. I want to do something special with it. I don’t know whether to keep it in my stall for good luck or to take it home with me to keep it safe.”

Then a wry smile comes over his face.

“I think Smitty [fellow Stars rookie Reilly Smith], he’s looking for his first goal, so he might try to steal it… maybe it will bring him good luck too.”

-- Texas Stars --

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