BISMARCK, N.D.–Every hockey player has their origin story. For C.J. Kier, it began at the squirt level in a Colorado rink. When his team’s goaltender broke his arm, C.J. was the one to step up and put the bigger pads on. It did not come as a surprise.
“I honestly just thought (goalies) looked cool growing up,” Kier said. “I just wanted to be the cool-looking guy on the ice.”
Kier had been exposed to hockey from an early age. Kier accompanied his grandmother, an Avalanche fan, to countless games in Denver. His father had played the game for fun in a men’s league, but nothing serious. From that point in Kier’s squirts career, stopping pucks became his life.
He progressed through the age groups, playing AAA-level hockey at ages 14 and 15 for the nearby Colorado Thunderbirds. A friend of his father’s informed them about a preparatory school and program in Minnesota that he thought would be a good fit for Kier. At age 16, off he went to Northstar Christian Academy to hone his skills.
“(Northstar) is definitely a grind,” Kier said. “It teaches you that you have to take care of your body, get a good sleep, do your stretching, eat good food.”
The Knights’ teachings, along with those of Matt Zaba, Kier’s goalie coach in Colorado, have paid off on the ice for the now-17-year-old Bobcats tender. In 13 starts for Northstar’s NAPHL 18U team, Kier is 12-1 with a goals against average of 0.98. Four of his wins are shutout victories.
“We are lucky to have C.J.,” Bobcats head scout Niko Kapetanovic said. “He is by far the best goalie in the NAPHL. By a landslide.”
Kier’s GAA is first among qualified goaltenders in the league, which includes programs such as Shattuck St. Mary’s school. No one has won more games than Kier, and his save percentage of /944 is second-best. Kapetanovic saw his impressive numbers last season, mostly for Northstar’s 16U squad, and had to reach out.
“Niko messaged me on Twitter last year and asked for my phone number,” Kier recalled. “We have been talking a lot since. He has been a big supporter of me, definitely a hype man.”
With Kier in the midst of likely his final season at the preparatory level, Kapetanovic had no doubts about offering Kier a tender, which he accepted and signed November 1st, the first eligible day to do so in the North American Hockey League. The signature was an easy one for Kier, but like any good scholar, he did his homework first. Kier talked to Layne Sedevie, Bobcats head coach and former professional goaltender. He even reached out to Cameron Korpi for his two cents, who told C.J. the opportunity to have a built-in goaltending coach with hands-on goaltending experience daily was not one to pass up.
“It is very exciting,” Kier said. “Every single kid (at my level) is looking up to juniors. This time last year, I never would have thought I would be in this position.”
If Kier elects to take his talents to the NAHL, he would join the Bobcats for the 2022-23 season. We look forward to welcoming him to Bismarck later this year.