He came through when called upon and earned the No. 1 job.
And along the way, Gavin Disano withstood baptism by fire as a young rookie goalie with the Blind River Beavers of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.
The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Disano, who hails from Sault Ste. Marie, faced a barrage of shots in becoming a workhorse between the pipes for Blind River over the course of the abbreviated, recently completed, 2020-2021 NOJHL season.
Signed by the Beavers prior to the start of the 2020-2021 NOJHL season after a year with the Soo Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North Under 18 Hockey League, the 17-year old Disano was originally brought into Blind River this season to be the backup to 19-year-old veteran Wyatt Courchaine.
But Disano eventually supplanted Courchaine as the No. 1 goalie in Blind River and saw the bulk of the action throughout the 2021 portion of the COVID-19 affected season as the Beavers faced off against the Soo Thunderbirds in cohort competition.
Disano ended up with a 6-4-1 record while Courchaine had a 3-7-0 mark for Blind River, which finished the season with a 9-11-1 showing in 21 games — 17 of which were played against the Soo and the other four versus the Rayside Balfour Canadians. Blind River had a 7-9-1 record in its 17 games against the Soo and posted a 2-2-0 mark in the four matches with Rayside Balfour.
As for Disano, his impressive 6-4-1 record, .891 save percentage and goals against average of 4.53 do not tell the whole story of what the young goalie faced in the Beavers net.
That is, in 689 minutes of action, Disano faced a whopping 478 shots. Which tallies up to a per game average of almost 42 shots per 60 minutes. Plus, Blind River played the last seven games of the season with just two regular defenceman due to injuries and suspensions.
Kyle Brick, who just completed his fifth season as the coach and hockey boss of the Beavers, came away very impressed with the play of Disano through the on and off and on again NOJHL campaign.
“There are a lot of qualities that Gavin has that really stand out,” Brick told Sault This Week. “His preparation, approach and focus are off the charts … and he positions himself extremely well.
“What also stands out about Gavin is that when he lets in a goal that he would like to have back, he doesn’t dwell on it or lose his concentration.
“We initially brought Gavin in to be the goalie of the future for the Blind River Beavers but let’s just say that right now, he is way, way ahead of schedule,” Brick offered. “He took over as our starter and he surpassed all expectations with the way he played and handled himself very well in all of those games against a skilled, veteran Soo Thunderbirds team.”
Disano, meanwhile, emerged from his first NOJHL season with a really good feeling.
“It was a great experience getting to play with a great group of players,” the personable youngster told Sault This Week. “Blind River is an unbelievable place to play with great fans who really support us. I loved every minute of living in Blind River and playing for the Beavers.”
Asked if he planned on returning to Blind River for the 2021-2022 season, Disano did not hesitate in responding.
“Absolutely, I plan on going back. The whole experience of playing there was definitely amazing,” he noted.
After starting out as the backup goalie this season and expecting to remain in that role behind the older, more experienced Courchaine, Disano said he welcomed the challenge of competing for the starting job and ending the season as the No. 1 guy in the Blind River net.
“The more I got to play, I wasn’t as nervous as when I started out,” Disano relayed. “I helped us win some games and got on a roll. And playing against my hometown team (the Thunderbirds) was great. We had a lot of good battles with the Thunderbirds and we did OK against them.”
Disano said being down to two regular defencemen over the latter stages of the season “was definitely tough. We had to play without guys like Mason (Chitaroni) and that was not easy. But some of our forwards dropped back and played ‘D’ for us and they helped a lot.”
On another note, Disano’s dad, Jamie Disano, is well known as a goalie instructor who operates his own business and tutors a number of local and area netminders. The elder Disano also happens to be goalie coach/assistant coach for Blind River.
“Before the season began, my dad told me that he wasn’t going to treat me any different than any other player … and that worked out well. The way we saw it, when it comes to games and practices, he is not my dad and I am not his son. I am one of the players and he is my goalie coach,” young Disano summed up.