“A little nerve-wrecking, honestly,” Keith Primeau chuckled. “Definitely different on the spectator side than on the playing side. Way, way more nerve-wrecking watching, for sure and especially as a parent, you just want them to be successful.”
Cayden Primeau calmed his dad’s nerves with a 34-save performance on Friday as the Americans edged the Russians 2-1 punching their ticket to Saturday’s gold medal game in Vancouver.
“I’ve heard he’s just like the rest of (the parents),” Cayden Primeau said of his dad. “He can’t watch too long or he’ll start freaking out.”
Primeau’s lone blemish against the Russians came in the second period when Florida Panthers prospect Grigori Denisenko beat him short side to cut the Americans lead in half. Primeau managed the shut the door the rest of the way making 15 third-period saves as the Russians pressured for the equalizer.
“Cayden’s been real steady. He’s got an ability in his game to use his size well ‘cause when you look through traffic, it’s hard to do so, he can look over, he can look under. But I think he’s made in-game adjustments in each game to feel more comfortable,” said U.S. general manager, and former NHL goaltender, John Vanbiesbrouck. “He’s held down the puck well and he’s made big saves.
“Obviously in our game against Russia, in the first part of the third period, when you’re killing a penalty, that player has to be your best player and he was.”
The 19-year-old native of Voorhees, New Jersey admitted he’s dealt with nerves at times during the tournament. Primeau was part of Team USA at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship, but didn’t get into a game.
Through five games the 6-foot-3, 198-pound goaltender has a 94.7 save percentage and 1.25 goals-against average.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous at the start of the tournament, but as the periods have gone on and as the games have gone on, I’ve definitely got some confidence from the group and just trying to build off that,” Primeau said. “Everything is running through you’re head so you’re not really in your lane so just trying to clear my head space and trying to get back to what got me here.”
For his performance Primeau was awarded the Eberly Trophy, which is given to the goaltender with the best save percentage during the tournament. He finished with a 97.4 save percentage after stopping 75 of 77 shots over two games.
“It’s huge when the building is sold out like that where the emotions are high – it’s something that I can use going into this game,” Primeau said. “The emotions are going to be high, it’s going to be a packed crowd so just trying to stay calm and even-keel.”
With the Huskies losing Adam Gaudette, Dylan Sikura and Nolan Stevens, things were expected to be difficult for Primeau and the Huskies this season, but Northeastern is currently third in the Hockey East conference.
Primeau is 10-3-1 in 14 appearances while posting 2.40 goals-against average and a 91.8 save percentage.
“It’s going well,” Primeau said. “We were kind of the underdogs going into the year since we lost such a special line, top line in college hockey last year, but we’ve come out and proved everybody wrong. This team is something special and excited for the second half.”
A seventh-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Primeau believes the past few weeks spent with USA Hockey is going to better prepare him for the second half of the college hockey season.
“Definitely when you get spend some time at a higher pace and with harder shots, it’s better to get used to,” he said. “I just feel like over the past couple of weeks I feel like I’ve gotten used to the pace and the shots.”
While Vanbiesbrouck believes Primeau’s ability to read the play is what stands out in the young goaltender’s game, he’ll need to work on things off the ice.
“I think he’s got to, off ice, leg strength, core strength and work on refining,” said Vanbiesbrouck. “He’s quick enough, he’s just got to refine that. It’s almost like a less is more type of approach. Sometimes when you’re young, you can slide past the play a little bit. Those are the things you got to get a little more comfortable with.”