Being a goalie in hockey poses some unique challenges. If you have a good game, you can single-handedly win it for you and your teammates. Have an off night, however, and you risk letting everyone down.
Throughout his SFU career, Jordan Liem has been a model of consistency. The third-year goalie from New Westminster has become an integral part of a SFU team that is always near the top of the BC Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) standings.
“I wanted to stay at home,” said Liem on his decision to come to SFU. “I played in Saskatchewan for a bit, so I wanted to come back home and start playing here again, close to family and friends. My sister actually came to SFU and said she liked it a lot. That kind of persuaded me to come here and they contacted me to come try out.”
Liem’s hockey career began with being drafted to the Western Hockey League. He was a ninth-round pick of the Tri-City Americans back in 2008.
“It’s quite the process,” explained Liem on getting drafted. “It’s definitely something you’re always focused on in your second year of bantam at 15 years old. And when I look back at it now, I think, ‘Wow, these 15 year-olds are getting this huge opportunity to play in a league where you’re getting seen by NHL scouts.’
“For me, I was at school; it was just a regular school day. We knew the draft was going on, so we were trying to keep posted and see if we were going, because a lot of us get contacted throughout the year from interested teams.”
As a draft pick, Liem got to attend their pre-season camps, which was an eye-opening experience for him at the time.
“I got to go to camp for two years and see what a junior main camp was all about,” he said. “The workouts, the ice times they expect you to do, and the professionalism that comes along with it, because it’s something you don’t really get a taste of at 15 usually. Not until you’re older and maybe getting into a junior A level.”
After spending time at the junior B level in BC with the North Van Wolf Pack and not getting “much interest from junior A teams,” Liem then was off to Nipawin, Saskatchewan — population around 4,000 — to try out for the Nipawin Hawks. He ended up making the team.
“It was like the Canadian hockey cliché: move to a small town and play away from home,” Liem said of the experience. “It was kind of like living out that adventure you always envisioned yourself doing. The people were nice; you’re like a town hero. You’re always kind of under scrutiny, because people recognize you all the time. But you’re always welcome everywhere and people are really nice to you.”
After finishing last season with 11 wins in 17 starts with a 2.87 GAA and .915 save percentage, this season has been a bit different. Although he’s improved his GAA and save percentage from last season, he’s been splitting a lot more starts with the team’s other goalie, Lyndon Stanwood.
“I’ve been in some tandems where you kind of butt heads, especially if you’re competing with ice time. But with us, with how good he’s been playing, I have no problem splitting ice time with him.
“We feed off each other a lot and we bounce ideas off each other a lot, which makes it a lot easier. It’s competition within the framework of your team, but it’s not like socially competitive. We’re not angry at each other about anything, it’s just the regular competition that comes between teammates.”
This goalie tandem has led to a brilliant season thus far for SFU hockey. The team is currently top of the BCIHL standings — but they were last year around this time, as well. The trick for this year’s edition will be to avoid the late season collapse that put them in second place, and eventually bounced them out of the first round of the playoffs.
“It’s hard to pinpoint,” said Liem on what makes this year’s team different. “I think I’ve said all year the leadership group is a little bit different. We’re kind of overall never out of a game.
“There’s never a lull where anyone on the team thinks that we’re shutting down for the rest of the night. I don’t know how many comeback wins we have this year, but at no point in any game have we felt like that’s it; we’re done. We’ve never felt out of it all year, and I think this year, too, just the attitude everyone has coming to the rink is pretty positive.”
Liem’s ultimate goal is to win the BCIHL championship after coming so close his first year. After that, the future is uncertain, but Liem says he does have a passion for goalie coaching.
“There’s a former SFU goalie, Jesse Mulholland, who’s starting a goalie school. It’s been getting a lot of popularity and he’s been keeping in contact with me and he gives me some opportunities to coach younger kids. [. . .] I don’t know if I’d want to do team coaching, but goalie coaching is kind of an interest in mind.”
FUN FACT: Favourite place to eat on campus?
“Definitely Mackenzie [café]. Their sandwiches are just killer.”