Kenai River Brown Bears goaltender Robbie Goor prides himself on staying calm when pucks and players are whirring about at blurring speed.
He also says he loves the honest and competitive coaching style of Kenai River head coach Jeff Worlton, a man Goor says has “bear claws” for hands.
But being a Brown Bear and bearlike hands are one thing. A real brown bear is quite another.
Goor found this out firsthand in a November hike of 3,000-foot Hideout Hill, the first mountain drivers hit on the right when traveling from Sterling to Cooper Landing.
Goor was doing the hike, which is sparsely traveled compared to its cousin, Skyline Trail, with fellow Minnesotan and Brown Bears forward Lucas Carroll.
The two were traveling down from the commanding views on the summit when Carroll alerted Goor to a moose 200 yards away.
“Dude,” Goor said. “That’s a bear.”
A brown bear, in fact. And located in the general direction of the hikers’ travel.
“We had bear spray, but I heard that doesn’t do much good,” Goor said.
Gone was the calm goalie that doesn’t mind a stern talking-to from Worlton. Goor’s heart raced, with every sound of the forest, which very much encroaches on the unmaintained trail, triggering panic.
“It’s something you’ll never see in Minnesota, or it’s very rare,” Goor said. “It was definitely one of my best memories.”
That’s exactly why, when Goor was traded to Kenai River from the Austin (Minnesota) Bruins in late September, he couldn’t wait to head farther north.
“I was super pumped,” said the billet son of Kenai’s Rick VanHatten. “I love the outdoors so I knew I would love the state.
“I love going out hiking and fishing and I knew Jeff was a competitive coach, and I like a coach that will push me.”
The trade to Kenai River has resulted in the best stretch of hockey in Goor’s career. Goor has a 1996 birthdate and will age out of junior hockey after this season.
He is tied for 11th in the North American Hockey League with a 2.57 goals-against average, even though he plays for the team with the second-worst points total in the league. He is also ninth in save percentage at .921 and has an 8-9-0-1 record this season.
Worlton first saw Goor in the 2014-15 season in the NA3HL and was happy to land him when Austin offered.
“He’s big, he’s athletic and he has a sense of arrogance,” Worlton said of the 6-foot-3, 210-pound netminder. “I believe any good goalie has that arrogance about him. Not in a bad way, but he believes he is the best goalie and that trickles down to the team.”
The coach said Goor’s competitiveness, and not technical skills, is his strength.
“I like to get in scrums,” Goor said. “It’s kind of fun.
“I’m a very competitive person. I hate to lose. I don’t even like to lose in something like pingpong.”
Goor, the son of John and Amy Goor, started skating at 3 or 4 and was a goalie by his Mite years, which is 8 and under.
He followed the typical Minnesota progression of Squirt, Pee Wee and Bantam before playing his sophomore through senior year for Anoka High School, which is 45 minutes north of the Twin Cities.
Goor said he played for middle-of-the-pack teams in high school. He is third on the all-time school list with 43 saves in one game, and four times stopped 41 in a game.
After graduating high school, he played for the NA3HL for just under two seasons before hooking on with Austin last season.
Goor’s big coming out party was playing every minute of a three-game home sweep of Fairbanks in late November.
“That was a boost to my confidence and the whole team’s confidence,” Goor said. “We knew we’d be a winning team from there on out.
“Losing is not acceptable.”
But Goor followed that up with some lackluster play at the Topeka (Kansas) RoadRunners.
“We had a talk about consistency and showing up every day,” Worlton said. “He took that conversation to heart.
“Since that he’s buckled down and he’s finding a way to be consistent every day.”
Both Goor and Worlton also are quick to point out that the improvement is not all at goalie. Team defense also is keeping the puck out of the net.
“Our D is super young, but they’ve learned a lot this season,” Goor said. “They’ve got the D zone locked down.”
Goor said he wants to play college hockey at the highest level possible. Worlton said Division I schools have called out Goor, but those calls are in the early, feeling-out stages.
In the meantime, Goor just wants to keep putting up solid numbers and get in fishing when he can, even if it means staying a few weeks after the season is over.
“It’s been a dream come true,” Goor said of his time in Alaska. “You can’t ask for a better group of boys.