Sports

Nieto ’20 saves 44 in season-opening win

Starting goaltender’s performance powers Bears to first victory over Yale since 2014

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, November 2, 2017

Gavin Nieto ’20 held the Bulldogs to one goal during Friday’s game as the men’s hockey team notched its first victory of the season.

The men’s hockey team opened its season with a home-and-home series against Yale last weekend, besting the Bulldogs 4-1 in New Haven Friday before falling 5-2 at Meehan Auditorium Saturday. Four different Bears scored in Friday’s contest, fueling Bruno to its first victory over the Elis since 2014. In the crease, starting goaltender Gavin Nieto ’20 delivered a standout performance, recording a career-high 44 saves.

Since arriving on campus in 2016, Nieto has made his mark on the Brown hockey program. In his rookie season, he started 27 of Bruno’s 28 games and posted over 30 saves in nine contests. Nieto also notched 42 saves against Quinnipiac University in the first round of the ECAC tournament in March 2017.

For his outstanding play in the season opener, Nieto has been named The Herald’s Athlete of the Week.

Herald: You delivered an impressive performance against Yale. What was that game like for you?

Nieto: It was definitely a fun one. It was nice to get the season off on a good foot. We came out really well — we put the pressure on them early, and they were kind of on our heels. They had a lot of shots, but as a team we played really well, especially in our own zone, so it was overall just a great game. It was fun to start the year out with a win.

What were your expectations going into this season?

We have a very good team. Last year obviously didn’t go as we wanted it to, but our freshman class is very strong and guys really put the work in this summer to come back a better team, so we have a lot of confidence in ourselves. We can really come in and have a good year and Friday was a good start, beating a rival in Yale. We got the split on the weekend, but it was a big first step.

When did you start playing hockey?

I started skating when I was three. My dad fell in love with hockey when Wayne Gretzky came to the Los Angeles  Kings. So when I was born, he threw me into hockey the first opportunity he could. I played my first hockey games around four, so I’ve been playing for a while. I decided to switch over to goalie when I was around 11.

What made you choose to be a goalie?

It’s a really funny story. I was actually a defenseman, and I was always kind of a chubby kid. Our goalie could not make a tournament or got hurt or something, so they needed a goalie and I was the biggest kid on the team, so they threw me in net. (laughs) At the time I was just like “okay,” and I fell in love with it. I loved that you were on the ice the entire game; I loved that the action was always coming towards you.

Do you have a favorite NHL team and a goalie that you like to model your style after?

I am a die-hard Anaheim Ducks fan. My family’s had season tickets since their inaugural season in ’93 so I’ve been going to games — my first game was when I was like two months old. I go to as many games as I can when I’m home. My favorite goalie is Braden Holtby, he’s a great competitor and his mental game is so strong, so I really like watching him. And then along with him, Carey Price is really fun to watch just because he’s so technically sound. He’s by far the best goalie in the league.

Did you play any other sports growing up?

I played baseball until I got to high school, and then once I got to high school I actually played lacrosse until junior year when I moved away to go to prep school for hockey. Growing up, I was always a two or three sport athlete, but hockey was always the sport that really had my heart and was what I would train for in the offseason.

Do you have any pregame routines or things that you do to get in the zone?

After we stretch as a team, I’ll usually go off by myself and either put a hat over my head or find a dark room and just kind of sit there and visualize and kind of picture myself playing well. I’m very big into the whole visualization — whatever you think will happen will happen, I’m very big into that. After we warm up, I usually go and do a lot of mental focusing and visualization, just to kind of get myself ready to go. It really helps me calm down too, because a lot of times I get really amped up and I try to play a really calm game.

Do you like to listen to music when you work out? What do you like to listen to?

I’m big into pregame music. Right now, my pregame mix is kind of all over the place. Probably my go to is the Hailee Steinfeld song with Florida Georgia Line — that one’s on repeat right now.

Has there been a most memorable experience in your Brown career so far?

Friday was pretty memorable. It was really fun to beat Yale on their home ice and do it the way we did it, but the one that sticks out for me is last year, in my freshman year — my first start at Holy Cross, putting a Brown jersey on for the first time and walking out there was pretty special. I get goosebumps thinking about it because it was kind of a lifelong dream finally fulfilled.

The team has just started its 2017-18 campaign. What are your individual aims for the season?

Individually, I’m trying to really take the next step and be an elite goalie in this league. I want to be above a .900 save percentage and really push to be one of the elite goalies in this league, and really my goal is (for the team) to be above .500 and have a good shot at having home ice advantage in playoffs. If I can do that, we have a good shot at winning a lot of games and having a really good year.

The Bears continue conference play with visits to Dartmouth and Harvard this weekend before returning home to host Clarkson Nov. 10.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.