EVERETT — When interviewing Carter Hart it’s best to remember the first two rules of “Fight Club.”
Rule No. 1: You do not talk about statistics.
Rule No. 2: You DO NOT TALK about statistics.
OK, so other than ignoring the stats, an interview with the affable Everett netminder is nothing like “Fight Club.”
On Wednesday, following a 28-save effort in which he lost a shutout in the final 1:14, Hart came to the media scrum still sporting his “Movember” mustache. He’s kept it into December because the Tips have won six straight with him between the pipes. Yet he’s considering shaving it because he’s been getting chirped about it from opponents and teammates alike.
“(My focus is) stopping pucks regardless of what the score is,” Hart said, minutes after earning his 11th victory of the season. “It doesn’t really matter what time of the game it is. You have to still do your job.”
Hart’s numbers are staggering. Despite missing a dozen games with mononucleosis, Hart is 11-3-0-1 with a 1.43 goals-against average and a .956 save percentage. He’s got a league-best four shutouts and has won three straight WHL Goaltender of the Week honors.
“I don’t know if I can put that into words – he’s just been really good,” Everett head coach Dennis Williams said after Wednesday’s game. “He just goes about his business. He’s such a pro about it … He’s just been so calm and cool back there, and I think our (defensemen) have done a good job of helping out back there, and our centermen as well. But his rebound control (is excellent), he handles pucks well, he’s a threat to move them up fast every time, and he’s surely a special player.”
Kelowna’s Kelly Guard set the WHL record for lowest GAA during the 2003-04 season at 1.56 while setting a single-season record with 13 shutouts. Moose Jaw’s Mike Brodeur led the league with a .929 save percentage that season.
It was also an era in which fewer goals were scored league-wide. Medicine Hat led the league with 277 goals during the 2003-04 season and 10 of the league’s 20 teams failed to score 200 goals. That stands in contrast to last year’s numbers in which 17 of the league’s 22 teams scored 200 or more goals as Regina led the way with 353. So far this season only Edmonton (197) is not on pace to reach the 200-goal threshold.
The WHL record book doesn’t list a single-season save percentage record. However, going back to the 1997-98 season the highest season save percentage is .937. It was achieved first by Spokane’s Dustin Tokarski in 2008-09 in 54 games. Victoria’s Griffen Outhouse matched it in 27 games during the 2015-16 season while platooning with Coleman Vollrath.
Michael Wall holds the Tips single-season save percentage record of .931 in 2004-05. David Reekie’s 1.77 GAA in 2006-07 is also tops in team history.
What does it all mean? Well, it means Hart has been playing so well he’s about to leave Everett for a month. He was named to Team Canada’s World Junior preliminary camp roster on Wednesday and will head to St. Catharines, Ontario, early next week to begin training.
Hart is a virtual lock to make the team after backstopping Canada to the silver medal last January when the team fell 5-4 in a shootout to the Americans in the gold medal game.
“Last year was one of the best experiences of my life, and anytime you get the chance to play for Canada, for your country that’s always a huge honor and I love going to play for Canada,” Hart said. “It’s always a blast going there and seeing some of those guys that I’ve become familiar with over the years now. It’s always a really big honor to go and represent your country.”
Team Canada’s goaltending situation is heavily scrutinized north of the border. Last year’s experience figures to help Hart this time around.
“I didn’t know what to expect coming into last year having it be my first tournament,” Hart said. “The tournament is put on a pretty high pedestal … Now I know what it’s like, and I’m ready for whatever’s thrown at me.”