November 27, 2016
When single-season tickets went on sale, there were probably a good number of local hockey fans that chose the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend to get to the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers were scheduled to host “Johnny Hockey” and the Calgary Flames.
But Johnny Gaudreau, the 23-year-old Carney’s Point, N.J., native and two-time NHL All-Star, underwent surgery on a broken finger two weeks ago and won’t be taking on the Flyers on Sunday. But another New Jersey native will be on the ice, making his NHL debut, no less.
The 23-year-old Stolarz, the Flyers second-round pick in 2012 (the same year they took Shayne Gostisbehere in the third round), will make history on Sunday, too. He will become the first New Jersey-born goaltender to play in an NHL game
Stolarz was born in Edison and grew up in Jackson; he attended Jackson Memorial High School, about an hour drive from the Wells Fargo Center. Needless to say, the rookie will have a large cheering section on Sunday in South Philly.
“It’s exciting to finally get this opportunity,” Stolarz told reporters on Sunday morning.
Stolarz had been recalled from the AHL six times but never managed to get off the bench during those call-ups. But his odds were better on his seventh recall, as Michal Neuvirth went down with a knee injury three weeks ago that was expected to keep him sidelined for 4-to-6 weeks.
After watching Steve Mason start six straight following the Neuvirth injury, Stolarz found out his NHL debut was coming from head coach Dave Hakstol after practice on Saturday.
“It was exciting to finally hear those words,” Stolarz said. “I'll go out there today and work hard, have fun and give this team a chance to win.”
Stolarz was 6-2 with a 2.39 goals against average and .226 save percentage this season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
“He's done his work,” Hakstol told reporters on Sunday morning. “The big thing for him is to get into his routine, stay within his routine and go out and play the game. His teammates will support him. ... I'm sure he'll maybe get through a couple of minutes where there's some nerves or jitters, but I'm sure Stolie will work his way into the game very quickly.”