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Chris Rutsch

Wolf Pack’s Georgiev chasing his dream

By Nicole Caporaso | AHL On The Beat

Hockey is hockey no matter where it’s played…or at least that’s how Hartford Wolf Pack goaltender Alexandar Georgiev views it. No matter what destination hockey takes Georgiev, to him, it is simply another chance to play the game he loves.

Georgiev started playing hockey at age five in Russia, and at only 21 years old, it has now taken him across the globe – from Russia to Finland, and from Finland to the heart of New York City, where he was invited to participate in the New York Rangers’ developmental camp this summer.

The goaltender impressed at camp and he signed an entry-level contract with the Rangers in July which landed him in his current home of Hartford, Connecticut.

Georgiev said he liked the notoriety of signing with an Original Six team, as an NHL contract was what he had worked for his whole life.

“It felt amazing to sign my contract because it was something that I always dreamed about,” he said. “The Rangers are a legendary team that everyone knows, and even people that don’t follow hockey, they’ve surely seen the logo or heard about the team. There’s so much history there.”

Growing up, he followed the NHL closely. Though Georgiev didn’t root for any specific team, he says he followed teams with exceptional goaltending, and listed Evgeni Nabokov of the San Jose Sharks and Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils as particular favorites of his. Today, he hopes his career will follow in their footsteps.

“One day I want to see myself not only as an NHL starter, but also as one of the best goalies in the league,” Georgiev said. “I have big goals for myself for every year, but I’m just trying to take it one step at a time.”

Prior to signing with the Rangers and starting his inaugural season in the American Hockey League, Georgiev appeared in 51 career games with TPS Turku of Liiga in Finland over parts of three seasons, but it was last year where he really hit full stride.

In 27 appearances with TPS Turku this past season, Georgiev established Liiga career-bests in appearances, wins (13), goals against average (a league-leading 1.70) and save percentage (92.3).

In addition, Georgiev started 2016 with a bang, playing in the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championships. Georgiev helped Russia earn a silver medal, as he posted a 3-1 record, along with a 2.52 GAA, in five games.

“I had been following the World Juniors every year, especially the goalies and how the teams were playing, so I was so grateful to be chosen,” Georgiev said. “It was an unreal experience, and we were very close to winning the gold, too.”

Now with the Wolf Pack, Georgiev says the biggest transition in playing hockey in North America has not been the different style of play or the different ice size, but his personal life.

“Hockey-wise, there are a few things that we have been tweaking with the Rangers’ goalie coach, but it’s actually not a huge adjustment,” he said. “The biggest change has been overall in lifestyle, like in getting my own place to live and those kinds of things.”

One hockey-related difference is that Wolf Pack head coach Keith McCambridge doesn’t yell as much as coaches he’s had in the past, Georgiev said with a smile.

“He treats everyone like real professionals,” he said. “Every day we have some kind of meeting where we try to improve every aspect of our game, so it’s been really good and he tries to keep things positive all the time.”

Keith McCambridge isn’t the only mentor Georgiev has, though, as his parents are highly involved in his career.

“No matter what game I’m playing they try to stay up all night to watch the games I’m in, even when it’s four in the morning for them,” he said. “They’re perfectionists, so they always give me feedback, even though I tell them all the time that I have a goalie coach and I have people who can help me with that.”

He hopes his family will be able to visit him early 2018, after visas and flights are obtained.

Georgiev doesn’t have a roommate and he says he doesn’t play favorites, so away from his family, he enjoys spending time with all of his Wolf Pack teammates. He relates to goaltender Chris Nell on a different level, however, as they share the same position.

“Chris is a great guy and we try to support each other because it’s a tough position,” Georgiev said. “We both compete really hard on the ice, but off the ice we’re good friends, and we try to keep each other positive.”

When he’s not with his teammates, Georgiev can be found watching a movie or reading a book, and he lists Marvel movies as his favorites. As for literature, he most recently read “The Godfather,” which is set in the first destination Georgiev visited in the United States.

“I thought it was a great book and it was all happening in New York too, so I was checking where stuff was happening in the book and then I was looking to see where I’ve been this summer,” he said.

Georgiev lists his ultimate goal as both becoming an NHL starter and winning gold with the Russian national team, and perhaps one day he will be back in New York City, the land where “The Godfather” originated, in net for the New York Rangers.