At the start of the season, Drew Owsley was deemed too small and too inexperienced to be the starting goaltender for the Tri-City Americans.
Good thing he isn't one to back down from a challenge.
"I like being the underdog," Owsley said, minutes after he posted 30 saves and led the Tri-City Americans to a 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Giants.
The win gave the Americans their first Western Conference title and Owsley was named the series MVP.
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"It's a little bit of a surprise," Owsley said of the award. "(Kelowna's) Tyler Myers won it last year and look what he's doing (The Buffalo defenseman is up for NHL rookie of the year). It's nice to be in the same group with guys like him. It's a credit to the whole team."
In the playoffs, Owsley certainly earned his keep, going 12-5 with a 2.14 goals against average with a .931 save percentage. The Americans allowed the fewest goals in the playoffs of the four teams playing in the East and West conference finals with 39, and gave up just 12 to Vancouver in six games.
"We played outstanding all year," Owsley said. "I'm impressed by guys like (Jarrett) Toll -- he's blocked as many shots this series as I have, and our penalty kill has been really good."
Last year, Owsley was 7-5-0-0 during the regular season and did not make an appearance in the playoffs.
This year, the 5-foot-8, 155-pounder from Lethbridge, Alberta, was one of the best in the league with a 33-11-1-1 record with four shutouts. He had a 2.51 goals against average and a .918 save percentage.
"For seven months, Drew has taken the opportunity in front of him and run with it," said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller. "We all have faith in him. There were a lot of good players in the series, but when it comes right down to it, you have to look at the goalies. It extends to the defense and forwards -- they all covered the net well."