The Cleveland Monsters started the 2018-19 season with three netminders on their roster. Jean-Fracois Berube started for the squad. While Brad Thiessen and Matiss Kivlenieks shared back-up duties.
Getting to play with veterans like Berube and Thiessen proved beneficial to Kivlenieks. As the season drew on, Kivlenieks starting tightening up his skills and playing with a bit more confidence. He also started talking with the defense more between plays. This led to a better understanding of what Kivlenieks needed the defense to do for him to succeed. The deeper the season went, the less the defense let the opposition get in Kivlenieks’ crease. Breathing room is quite a beautiful thing for a goalie.
Around Valentine’s day, Kivlenieks was sent to the Kalamazoo Wings (ECHL) to get more playing time. At this point in the season, the Wings were struggling to win games. Kivlenieks helped the Wings get into a playoff spot with his dazzling saves and quick reactions. It was clear his confidence was at an all time high. Plus, the huge smile on his face during most games showed how much Kivlenieks truly loves the game of hockey.
On March 22nd, Berube left the Monsters vs Rochester Americans game with an injury. The next day Kivlenieks was called up to the Monsters. He spent the rest of the season and playoffs backing up Thiessen but did not see any ice time.
Matiss Kivlenieks 2018-19 Regular Season Stats
Games Played : 14 (CLE) / 8 (Kalamazoo)
Record : 4-4-1 (CLE) / 5-3-0 (Kalamazoo)
Goals Allowed Average : 3.71 (CLE) / 2.71 (Kalamazoo)
Save Percentage : 87.3% (CLE) / 92.3% (Kalamazoo)
Kivlenieks is entering the last year of his contract with the Blue Jackets organization. With the signing of Veini Vehvilainen and rumblings of Thiessen coming back for the 2019-2020 season, it’s safe to assume Kivlenieks will be sent to the ECHL again.
As I’ve said in previous articles, the competition amongst younger goalies is good. Having Vehvilainen and Kivlenieks on the Monsters roster with Thiessen there to help mold them train them into better goalies would be the organization’s best option. Kivlenieks has so much untapped talent and the Jackets organization needs to find a way to pull it out of them.
If they don’t want to take the time to mold him, they need to trade him. Shoving him in the ECHL will only hurt his growth and development.