Josh Boyko got his start as a goalie thanks to a friend who lived in his neighborhood.
His friend’s team no longer had a goalie because he quit and Boyko’s mom was asked by his friend’s mom if her son could fill the void.
The rest is history.
“I’ve been a goalie ever since,” said Boyko, who was 6 or 7 years old at the time. “I never doubted it was the right move. I’m happy with it.”
These days, Boyko is a standout goalie for the Aurora Spartans, and he has established himself as one of the best in the game.
He sports a goals against average of 1.95, the best in the NCHA. He also leads the league in save percentage (.932) and is second in saves (635). Boyko has also already matched his win total from a year ago (9), and can set a new personal best for wins with one more victory between the pipes.
The junior out of Ontario, who also plays lacrosse at Aurora, takes pride in what he’s accomplished so far for a Spartans team that is assured of a spot in the NCHA tournament.
“It’s pretty cool,” Boyko said. “It’s nice having numbers up there with best in conference and the country. It gives me a lot of confidence. It’s a nice motivation to keep playing the best hockey that I can play.”
Of course, he wouldn’t be where he is today without hard work and his teammates. Boyko will be the first to tell you as much.
“There’s a lot of communication with myself and the defensemen and our coaches,” Boyko said. “I put a lot of work in during the offseason with my goalie coach back home and the goalie coach here, and they’ve helped me simplify my game. A lot of people have played a big part in my success.”
But success didn’t come easy at Aurora. As a freshman, Boyko was part of a team that won only five games.
Over the last two years, however, the Spartans have won 23 games, and have a shot to pick up two more wins this weekend against Milwaukee School of Engineering in the final series of the regular season.
“Going from junior hockey where I was on a pretty good team to a team that had just five wins and a lot of losses, it motivated us to get better,” Boyko said. “This year, we’ve set high goals to compete for a conference championship and move on to the NCAA tournament.”
Added depth has helped the Spartans, who are 11-6-6 overall and 7-5-6 in the NCHA.
“We’re a deeper team,” Boyko said. “Everyone who played last year now has a full year under their belt and they know what to expect. We’ve also brought in good freshmen. We all understand what we need to do and feel like we have a team that can make a push in the postseason.”
For Boyko, his ability to embrace the pressure that comes with being a goalie has helped him play a part in the Spartans’ success.
“I thrive under pressure,” Boyko said. “I don’t try to think about what went wrong when I get scored on. I look at it from what I can do to get better the next time. I’m always going to bet on myself.”
And he has plenty of faith in his teammates as well. The Spartans have played some of the best teams in the league tough, including forging a pair of ties with nationally ranked Lake Forest this past weekend.
“We have what it takes to stay with the best teams,” Boyko said. “Now we just have to try to get through that wall and win those games. We know going into the NCHA tournament that we are going to battle hard no matter who we play.”
No matter how the rest of this season plays out, Boyko knows the future is bright.
“There is a ton of optimism in the program. If this isn’t our year, next year will be. A lot of us want to go on to play pro one day, and we want to be able to leave a legacy here.”
Around the West Region
Augsburg has the upper hand at the moment in the MIAC standings, but Concordia certainly has a say in how things play out.
The Auggies and Cobbers square off in a two-game series this weekend at Concordia. Augsburg holds a three-point lead over the second-place Cobbers going into the weekend.
Augsburg is the only team in the conference with more than six wins in the always tight MIAC and there’s a good chance the regular-season champ won’t be crowned until the final weekend.
Caleb Anderson continues to be one of the top players in the MIAC. The Gustavus star leads the league in points (29) and goals (15). He’s also tied for fourth in assists with 14.
Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Wiscosin-Eau Claire are both on a roll. The Pointers are unbeaten in their last 11 games and the Blugolds have gone seven consecutive games without a loss. UW-Eau Claire currently has the edge in the league standings, holding a two-point lead (21-19) over the reigning national champions.
The Blugolds finish out the season with a series against Wisconsin-River Falls. The Pointers play a two-game set with Northland. If UW-Eau Claire takes care of business, it will be the champ and the top seed for the league tournament.
Two players in the WIAC have 30 or more points. Both play for UW-River Falls. Christian Hausinger and Ryan Cusin have come through with 31 and 30 points, respectively. Hausinger has tallied nine goals to go along with 22 assists and Cusin has come throug with 13 goals and 17 assists.
The playoff field is set in the NCHA. Adrian, Lake Forest, Trine and Aurora are all in from the South while Marian, St. Norbert, St. Scholastica and Lawrence are all in from the North. The Vikings and Saints both missed on the playoffs last season as did Trine, the only team among this year’s playoff field out of the South that didn’t make the postseason last year.
The top five players in points in the NCHA all have at least 30.
Peter Bates of St. Norbert leads the way with 36. He is third in the league in goals with 14. He is one of three Green Knights to be a statistical leader in a category.
Teammate Kurt Black is the top goal scorer in the conference, punching in 17, and Colby Entz has the best winning percentage among goalies at .857. Entz is 8-1-2 on the season.
In the Poll: Three of the top 10 teams in this week’s poll hail from the West region. Wisconsin-Eau Claire leads the way, remaining at No. 2 this week. Adrian checks in at No. 8 and fellow NCHA team Lake Forest is ninth in the country. Wisconsin-Stevens Point is just outside the top 10, sitting in 11th, while St. Norbert and Augsburg hold down the final two spots in the poll.