Even though he's seen limited icetime, GDI Goalie Mario Petit has made the most of his starts and turned heads during practice.
By. Jesse Geleynse
Everett Silvertips goaltender Mario Petit loves his new goalie mask.
Set on a background of Silvertips green, it says “Super Mario” and features a caricature of Petit wearing a hat that reads “MP” in the vein of the eponymous Nintendo video game character.
The only downside? Kids keep asking him if he has a girlfriend named “Peach.”
No (his sister's name is Gabrielle), and he doesn't have a brother named “Luigi” either (his brother's name is Robert).
It is Petit, the 18-year-old from Ile-Des-Chenes, Manitoba, with the ready-made nickname and accompanying goalie mask who has the unenviable task of backing up NHL goaltending prospect Carter Hart. As such, Petit's chances to play have been few and far between.
Petit has appeared in eight games this season — four times he has started and four times he has replaced Hart in the middle of the game. It's by far the most time Petit has spent on the bench in his career.
“It's been a big mental year (for me),” Petit said. “(I keep) finding ways to get better without playing. Carter has been doing a great job for us. He's making huge saves and stealing games for us. I have lots of respect for that kid.”
To get a sense of Petit's work ethic you'll have to stop by Xfinity Arena on a weekday afternoon to watch as he remains on the ice after practice, working on his technique and positioning while blocking endless shots from other rink-rat teammates. Or, if you can elude arena staffers asking you to leave after a home game, you can watch as he dons oversize headphones and runs the stairs of the second deck.
Petit's playing time was hampered by the Silvertips' light schedule in the first half of the season. That changed as the season entered its second portion and the coaching staff addressed that with their soft-spoken backup netminder.
“We talked to Mario at the Christmas break and looked at our schedule and saw lots of four games in five nights and lots of three games in three nights,” head coach Kevin Constantine said. “(We) told him his opportunity to play would be based on that schedule and his own performance.”
Petit also suffered a poorly timed illness that kept him out of a scheduled start at Tri-City on Jan. 29, and he also missed Everett's games the next two days at home.
“It's frustrating, but you have to do what's best for your team,” Petit said. “I thought I have to be respectful to my guys and I had to sit that one out.”
He's been healthy since his return and he's coming off his best performance of the season in Sunday's 3-2 win at Spokane. Petit finished with 22 saves on 24 shots for his second victory of the season as he improved to 2-1-1-0.
“The schedule got him that start and his performance was good. I thought he was really solid,” Constantine said. “Mentally you have to hang in there and that's what he did. He stayed in there and competed and put us in position to win. So I thought he was really good.”
Petit was sharpest when it was most needed. He stopped 10 of 11 in the final period as he helped the Tips hold on in the final two minutes when the Chiefs pulled their goalie for an extra skater.
“The boys, I think, basically did all the work for me,” Petit said. “They blocked lots of shots and made it easy for me back there.”
Constantine says he doesn't make goalie decisions until the day of a game, so it remains to be seen how many more starts Petit will get. But with another three games in three nights this weekend, and four games in five nights next week, it's possible fans could see “Super Mario” back in the crease a few more times before the playoffs begin.
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Petit has been training with GDI for many years through 1v1 lessons and the Total GDI Academy.
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