Given his start

Intramural goalie moving up the ranks

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros
Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

Every sports fan goes through it — pretending to play on the big stage, hoping a scout is watching, waiting to call you up to the big leagues — while casually just playing with friends. Harrison Pharoah got to experience this fantasy in reality.

The Wilfrid Laurier University men’s hockey team got off to a rough start to the season due to several injuries, including both the starting and backup goaltenders, Chris Festarini and Vinny Merante.

This put Coach Greg Puhalaski in a tough position, yet he found an answer.

All he had to do was look towards Laurier’s ice hockey intramurals to find stand out goaltender, first-year Harrison Pharoah, who had been leading his team to an undefeated season.

“It was kind of out of the blue—one day I got a random text on my phone, it was from Greg,” said Pharoah. “He said both our goalies are out with injuries this year and we were wondering if you could come out for some practices …  and see what happens from there.”

“[Then] I found myself in the net against York.”

Pharoah went from dominating the intramurals to becoming a key contributor as Laurier’s newest starting goaltender.

He told his parents and their reactions were clear — they were nothing short of proud and thrilled for their son’s opportunity.

“It [was] all kind of a shock … then there was all excitement. My mom came down for my first game, watched us play. Then we went to the Brantford campus and my dad was there. They’ve all been excited the whole way. They’re watching every game online.”

Pharoah, who never played higher competitively than Junior C, started playing hockey from a young age in Toronto. He knew from the moment he first put on the pads in house league that he was going to be a goalie.

“[I] started skating around the age of seven … then I picked up playing recreationally at the age of eight, strapped on the pads right then and there …[I] fell in love with it,” he said.

Now, with an intimidating six-foot-two frame, Pharoah plays a disciplined and calm game where he plays tall in the middle of the net and lets the pucks hit him instead of coming out and forcing the play.

Despite his size and skill, the transition from slower-paced intramurals to the faster, tougher game of Ontario University Sport hockey is not an easy one. However due to the exceptional support Pharoah received from his teammates and coach Puhalski, he was able to comfortable fit in and become an integral part of the team as he stepped into the goal.

“The boys have been nothing but supportive as well. Like Greg, they’ve all embraced it, made me feel welcome,” he said. “It’s been a breeze pretty much with the transition, [they] made it really easy for me.”

On Nov. 6, Pharoah’s debut was imminent — he had only a week of practice to prepare for his first game against the York Lions.

Fortunately, he had a clear mindset on how to beat the nerves and play well. Despite the rushed circumstances, his goals for the game were simple.

“Stop the pucks … let the first one hit you and go from there,” he said.

Pharoah led the way for the team with a 35 save effort in his debut as Laurier took the win against the Lions with a score of 3-1.

Through seven games, Pharoah holds a 3-4 record and a .904 save percentage. By comparison, the previous starter Chris Festarini had a .903 save percentage and a 2-4 record through six games.

Pharoah’s stable presence in net has provided the Golden Hawks with a chance to win each game.

When asked if he has settled in to his new role as a starter, there was not a  hint of doubt in his voice that he had a newly found confidence in himself.

“The last two games, I’ve started to understand what to expect from these guys. I’m settling into the team, the style of play, the speed everything. I’m becoming more comfortable as the games go on for sure.”

As for the future, Pharoah is taking it day by day and enjoying the experience.

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