Wind at Your Back

Know Your Bobcat – Tucker Windels
Throughout the months of August and September, will be taking a one-by-one look at the players on the Bobcats’ Training Camp Roster. Today’s installment features rookie Bobcat goalie Tucker Windels.
Name: Tucker Windels
Position: Goalie
Hometown: Fargo, ND
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 180 lbs.
2012-13 Team: Davies High School Eagles
2012-13 Stats: 21 GP, 15-4-1, 596 saves, 1.85 GAA, .940 SV%
2012-13 Awards: North Dakota All-State Goalie, East Region Co-Senior Athlete of the Year, Powerade Outstanding Senior Athlete Finalist
Favorite Book: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
Favorite TV Shows: Suits
Highlight of 2012-13: “Being nominated for Mr. Hockey in North Dakota. I was a finalist along with Jon Lizotte and Alex Rauhauser; it was a real honor to be considered alongside such great players.”
The Natural
For Bismarck Bobcats rookie goaltender Tucker Windels, playing between the pipes is the only way he’s ever known.
“Some guys come to being a goalie later, like in squirts or peewees,” explained Windels, who played his high school hockey with Davies High, “but I’ve been in net since the first year of mites.”
It was the simple logistics of mite hockey in Fargo that first put Windels in the cage.
“The first time I played goalie it was because at our age, everybody played every position,” recalled the Bobcat rookie netminder. “When my turn came around in net, I just never wanted to come back out. I knew it was for me.”
Over the years, he watched some of the best goalies that professional hockey had to offer and started to model his game after one of the all-time greats.
“I saw Patrick Roy play against the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center in 2002,” cited Windels. “I’m a butterfly-style goalie, so seeing a guy who made a Hall of Fame career and won multiple Stanley Cups with that style of play was a really influential experience for me.”
As times and goaltending methods have evolved, so too has Windels.
“Right now, the way I play is considered to be a blocking technique,” advised the former All-Stater, “which means using the butterfly style along with positioning to put myself in the best spot to make saves.
“The best example of the blocking technique in hockey right now is definitely Henrik Lundqvist with the [New York] Rangers. He is so positionally sound and plays with a ton of confidence; he’s the kind of guy that every blocking goalie looks up to right now.”
A blocking goalie, in fact, may be just what the doctor ordered in net for the Bobcats.
“Our veteran goalie, Aaron Nelson, uses a more reactionary technique, which he uses very well,” assessed Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie, a former junior, collegiate and professional goalie himself. “Having Tucker on board as a blocking goalie provides a great change of pace in net that makes our team that much tougher to prepare for.
“It’s a lot like the one-two punches we had four years ago in Ryan Faragher and Jake Williams and two years ago in ‘Nelly’ and Tommy Burke.”
The latter tandem combined to break the team’s single-season wins record; the former backstopped the Cats to their first-ever Robertson Cup.
From the Ground Up
As a high school sophomore, Tucker Windels had the rare experience of helping to start a new program when Fargo’s new Davies High School fielded their first hockey team for the 2010-11 season.
“It can be a little nerve-wracking to be a part of something new, because there’s no real blueprint for starting up a high school hockey team,” advised Windels, who managed a 7-8-2 record in Davies’ inaugural season as the Eagles battled to a record of 9-11-4. “At the same time, it’s exciting to know that you’re laying the groundwork for something special.”
In 2011-12, the Eagles improved to 16-10-1 and made it all the way to the State Tournament, upsetting West Region champion Bismarck High in double overtime on day one en route to a fourth-place finish at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Windels was a sturdy 11-8-3 on the season.
Things really took off for the Eagle goalkeeper in 2012-13, as Windels compiled an eye-popping 15-4-1 mark en route to another State Tournament appearance and day one win at “The Ralph” for the Eagles.
“By the time senior year rolled around, we had gotten to the point of being a real state title contender,” stated Windels, “but seeing as how quickly the level of play statewide has elevated itself in the last few years, there were certainly no nights off or easy wins. It said a lot about how our team was able to respond and battle when we weren’t the hunters anymore my senior year—we were the hunted.
“It makes me feel good to know our team brought the program to the point where we were respected enough to get our opponents’ best shot every night when four years ago we were a school and a team that didn’t even exist.”
Goalie-Friendly Situation
When the Bismarck Bobcats made Tucker Windels their eighth round pick in the 2013 NAHL Entry Draft, it was less surprise than it was anticipation for the former Eagle.
“About a week before the draft, [Bobcats western regional scout] Aaron Kinslow called me and asked me how I’d feel about being drafted by the Bobcats,” recollected Windels, “and I told him that it would be an exciting opportunity. So I jumped on FASTHockey and listened to the draft broadcast; when they called my name to the Bobcats I wasn’t surprised but I was definitely excited.”
Now that he’s here in the capital region, he’s gotten a chance to play alongside and learn from Aaron Nelson, another native North Dakotan between the pipes.
“We only got on the ice this earlier this week, but I’ve already been able to observe ‘Nelly’ and see what it takes to be a top goalie in this league,” credited Windels. “This is his third year in juniors and his preparation every day is second-to-none. I can tell that there’s a lot that I can learn from him this season.”
It’s another Bismarck-born goalie, though, that represents a source of enthusiasm for Windels.
“Coming to the Bobcats and working with Coach Sedevie is really a big deal for me, because I’ve not had the chance to work with a coach that has such a strong track record with goalies,” added the rookie.
Both Sedevie and the Bobcat program as a whole are on an incredible run of nine straight goaltenders to commit to NCAA Division I programs: Aaron Walski (North Dakota); Tim Krystosek (Air Force); Jake Kremer (Minnesota); Matt Grogan (Connecticut); David Bosner (Air Force); Ryan Massa (Nebraska-Omaha); Ryan Faragher (St. Cloud State); Jake Williams (Mercyhurst); and Tommy Burke (Bowling Green).
“Nine straight goalies. That’s a number that just speaks for itself,” marveled Windels. “Between the coaching we have, the conditioning we get and the tradition of winning and advancing goalies to D-I, it’s hard to imagine a better place for a goalie to play than for the Bobcats.”
Stay tuned to over the next month-plus as we take you in-depth with every player on the Training Camp Roster in preparation for the 2013-14 season. This week we’ll also sit down with Matt Perry, Dylan Parker, Nick Wallace and Cullen Willox.