Longtime Jackson Hole Moose hockey ace goalie Nick Krauss was kept off the ice over the weekend with an injury.
That left a gaping hole in net with rival Bozeman Stingers coming to town for the two-game series.
And it forced some of the Moose players to make calls in search of a goaltender to take the net in Krauss’ absence. Jordan Nagelkirk answered the call.
Nagelkirk lives in Oregon and has played only in beer leagues after a short junior hockey career. He’s a friend of a few of the Moose dating back to their trips to Washington to play in past years, and when he got the call, he gathered his goalie pads and stick, put on a Moose sweater and took to the net at Snow King Sports and Events Center.
“The first game was nerve-wracking,” he said from back in Oregon. “I knew I had some big shoes to fill. Krauss is one hell of a goalie and the heart of the team.”
Those nerves didn’t go away quickly. The Stingers scored a breakaway goal 30 seconds into the opening period to rattle the fill-in’s skates.
From there, though, Nagelkirk was electric. He saved the next 23 shots on goal as Jackson took a 7-1 victory.
“That first goal was hard to recover from,” he said. “But the atmosphere there is incredible. There’s tons of fans.”
Outside the net those fans got a third-period treat even as the game devolved into chippiness. The Moose ripped five goals in the third period, including two from forward AJ Sanders, who finished with two assists as well. Kristian Ophus had three assists in the victory and Alex Dewitz added a goal and two assists.
On Saturday the Moose attack gave their temporary tender some room to breathe. Jackson rattled four first-period goals off on the way to an 8-3 victory to complete the weekend sweep.
“Saturday night was night and day difference,” Nagelkirk said. “I had beers with the guys Friday, got comfortable with the atmosphere. Friday I never shook the nerves off, not until the third period when we really started scoring some goals.”
The second game had Brad Improta totaling four assists. Jason Reese had two goals and an assist, and Drew Akins had a goal and three assists.
The victories move Jackson to 10-2 on the season with a team from Dallas in town this weekend. The expectation is that Krauss will be back, comfortably in the net he’s held down for the better part of eight seasons.
Nagelkirk, meanwhile, is comfortable being back home on the West Coast with no designs on making his appearances at Snow King a regular gig. But he’s not shutting the door on answering the call again if the situation arises.
“The fans there, such an incredible atmosphere,” he said. “I hope it’s not the case, someone getting hurt, but I certainly wouldn’t mind being around.”
Jackson faces Dallas at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Snow King.