For Sogaard, it was his first game back on Canadian soil after appearing with the Western League’s Medicine Hat Tigers the past two seasons.
Signed to a three-year entry-level contract April 13, the Ottawa Senators 2019 37th overall Entry Draft selection played a steady, if not spectacular game in which stopped a breakaway and made several key saves when the game was tied at two in the third period, and in the waning moments. Credited with 24 saves, Marlies Nic Petan beat Sogaard with under a second remaining to keep the score respectable.
Belleville head coach Troy Mann was impressed with Sogaard’s performance, especially after arriving from Denmark on short notice, and going through the quarantine process.
“I thought he was excellent. He’s six-foot-nine (on skates) and he covers a lot of net, which is something you love to see as a coach – very athletic. I thought his puck-playing skills was certainly a pleasant surprise for me to make some plays to the defense as well. Obviously, that’s very helpful. In control all game long, square to the puck. I felt bad. I think we let up the last 25 seconds. It would’ve been nice to keep the score 5-2 for him,” said Mann.
Although, it was only one appearance, the Belleville bench boss noted the 20-year old possesses several key attributes of which will aid in future success at the professional level.
“Maturity, composure and athleticism are probably the three things that really describe him well. I think that anybody, head coaches specifically – when you hear those of type of things – you feel real good on the bench about that guy making the next save for you.”
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Like any goaltender after a win, Sogaard praised his new teammates after the win, “The guys were great tonight. They helped me out. Coming from Europe, coming over, it’s a lot faster hockey. I think the guys were great on and off the ice. They were pumping my tires. It was pretty awesome.”
It didn’t take long for the lanky goalie to re-adjust the North American ice surface, “One thing is the smaller ice surface, the hockey is so much faster. The first period, I felt pretty good. I definitely get used to the speed and the bounces off the boards. I like to play the puck, and there’s a certain area you can’t play the puck in now. That’s also a little reminder I had to remind myself throughout the game. But overall, it was pretty good.”
Asked if he had any butterflies, Sogaard replied, “Not at all, it’s just hockey. I’m out there having fun. To be able to come over here and playing a game already, it’s about enjoying it all. When you let in a goal, it’s not the worst thing in the entire world. I think I’ll survive that.”
This past season, the six-foot-seven, 201-pound netminder led the Metal Ligaen in his native Denmark with a .922 save percentage – leading his Esbjerg Energy club to the league semi-final, eventually losing to his hometown team, Aalborg in six games.
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Sogaard told Full Press NHL via Zoom postgame Saturday what learned from playing in the Danish professional league, “The biggest thing for me is using my size to my advantage. I think it’s getting better and better. I’m getting comfortable. I’m such a big guy. Where I think I can separate myself is on my movement. – not from moving laterally, but also post to post. You know, generally, just moving well. So that was a big focus. I also put a lot of focus on tracking the puck. It sounds super simple, but I really bear down on that. Every single time, every single rep in practice, just make sure that you do that, and create good habits.”
Sogaard would send clips after every start to former Senators goalie coach Pierre Groulx, who would in return them and lend his feedback of each outing.
The youngster almost spent a third campaign with Medicine Hat, but was fortunate to skate with Esbjerg, “It was pretty late, actually. For a long time I still thought I was going back (to Medicine Hat). I had a conversation with my agent (Claude Lemieux) and PG as well. I thought it was just best to stay there for a year. I have two years of experience of junior hockey. I got to play some meaningful hockey and playoff games as well. Having that in mind, I thought it was a good decision to stay over. I was really happy to have a place to play this year. Some leagues were shut down. I’m pretty thankful for that. My hometown team (Aalborg) was very nice to me and let me practice for a couple of months. Esbjerg called and asked if I was interested. I’m just thankful for how everything played out in a weird year with Covid and everything,” Sogaard explained.
Sogaard is happy to get in a few games for Belleville down the stretch, including a second start Sunday afternoon in which he made 29 saves on route to a 4-1 Senators win – earning first star honours for his stellar performance.
Despite being one of several goalies vying for spots in the Senators’ organization, Sogaard is already motivated and looking forward to next season.
“This is where I want to play. I want to be in Belleville next year. For me just to get my feet wet this season – try out it – see how it feels.”