New Idaho Steelheads goalie is ready for anything

Backup Josh Watson gets a rare start Friday night, earns his first victory as an Idaho Steelhead.

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comFebruary 15, 2014 

— Josh Watson’s season included as many starts as teams before Friday.

Watson, a 23-year-old rookie goaltender, got his third start of the season — and second for the Idaho Steelheads — in a 4-3 win against Bakersfield at CenturyLink Arena.

At least he knew it was coming.

Watson’s first start for the Steelheads came Jan. 18, one day after being acquired in a trade with Reading, his first ECHL team of the season.

Watson played Wednesday night when he replaced the injured Pat Nagle with 90 seconds remaining in the second period. Watson allowed one third-period goal in a 2-1 loss.

“It’s good to get a little time to prepare,” Watson said before Friday’s game.

Such is life for a backup goalie. Watson’s job is to be ready — and then wait and wait and wait. Nagle started 17-of-19 games for Idaho before missing Friday’s game.

“He’s got a really good demeanor for a guy in his situation. He’s confident in his abilities, and he’s ready to go when he gets the opportunity,” Idaho coach Brad Ralph said. “It can’t be easy to be cold like that, sitting on the bench. Mentally, you’re not engaged like the rest of the players are, and your legs are kind of cold. It’s not easy.”

Watson (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) played college hockey at Rochester Institute of Technology and saw limited action until his senior season, when he played 19 games. When his college career ended, the undrafted Watson returned to his hometown in Pennsylvania and called Reading coach Larry Courville.

Reading is 30 miles away from where Watson grew up, and he often attended games.

“I let him know I was available if anything happened to one of their goalies or if they got called up,” Watson said.

When that happened, Watson had a spot and earned his first victory in his first start for the Royals, a 4-1 win against Wheeling on Dec. 31.

“It was awesome, I can’t even explain it. My whole life, I have been preparing and trying to get up to the professional level. To get a start and even get a win, it kind of tops the cake there. It’s kind of a dream come true,” Watson said.

But the Royals’ goalie situation improved, and Watson was dealt to the Steelheads on Jan. 17.

He didn’t know anything about Idaho or Boise before the trade. It was just another opportunity for him to continue his professional career.

Ralph, too, knew little about his new acquisition. But with Josh Robinson in Texas and no timetable for his return to Idaho, the Steelheads needed some depth.

“The Reading coach spoke highly of him. We knew he went to RIT and did well there,” Ralph said. “I think, more than anything, I knew he had good work ethic and good attitude, and being in that situation, that’s important.”

Watson was in net one day after the trade. He started against Utah, allowing four goals on 33 shots in a 4-2 loss. He made a relief appearance for the Steelheads on Jan. 29 against Alaska, allowing two goals on 33 shots in a 2-1 loss.

“He comes to the rink every day to work hard. It’s got to be a bit hard, knowing maybe you’re backing up for a while. He comes every day with a good attitude, and he brings that energy we need on the back end,” defenseman Tyler Elbrecht said.

Knowing he won’t get many chances to stay sharp, Watson tries to make every shot he sees count — in practice, warm-ups, wherever.

“I’ve just got to be ready to go at anytime,” he said.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @MurphsTurph

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