By Bobby Kirschenbaum
While most 20 year olds are beginning their second year of college at various Universities around the World, Mackenzie Skapski was called to start at goalie for the New York Rangers. On Friday February 20th, Skapski was called to his first career NHL start as the Rangers took on the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, NY. It was a sold out crowd as 19,000 loud, diehard fans watched on as Skapski took the ice. On a night where King Henrik Lundqvist is recovering from injury, and Cam Talbot is getting rest on the second day of a back-to-back, all eyes were on Skapski between the pipes.
The game couldn’t have started worse for the 20 year old, as Buffalo took a 1-0 lead just 14 seconds in off a careless mistake in the defensive zone by the Rangers. As the loud and electrifying goal horn reverberated around the Arena, Skapski realized this was the real deal, no longer the AHL where he had been playing for the past several months. And from that moment on, Skapski became a human brick wall, as he went on to stop the final 24 shots following the goal, as the Rangers defeated the Sabres 3-1. Skapski will always remember this night, as not only was it his the day of his first career NHL win, but the 47th birthday of his father. When asked about the game after, Skapski spoke. He said, “It’s not the start I wanted, that’s for sure. But I rebounded well. I was fighting pucks in the first period, but in the second and third I was pretty calm, cool and collected.”
“Oh it was just the Buffalo Sabres, the worst record in hockey, lets see him do it against a real strong opponent,” many fans might say. However, although this was Skapski’s first NHL start, he has proven himself time and time again in the past. This season in the AHL, with the Hartford Wolfpack, Skapski has a 12-7-3 record in his 22 starts, with a .914 save percentage and 2 shutouts among those 12 victories.
With starting goalie Henrik Lundqvist ailing, and Cam Talbot allowing a horrendous 5.4 Goals per game in his past 5 starts, this surely won’t be the last we see of Skapski in a Blueshirt uniform, whether it be this season or next. At 20 years old, this kid has a lot of potential, and very bright future ahead of him.