Simple, yet detailed.
More workmanlike than flamboyant.
Words that describe the mask of Bakersfield goaltender Nick Ellis, as well as his style of play.
In an era where goaltender masks have become elaborate works of art, Ellis’ stands out just due to it’s simplicity: White with the orange Oiler oil drop on the sides, a pair of orange stripes on the top and his number, 34, beneath the cage.
“I just like a simple mask because I think as a fan in the stands you can’t really see much detail, so I like to just have something plain and something that sticks out a little so that’s how I went this year,” said Ellis. “I went back to what I kind of did in college. I just like that look.”
While the mask is nice, Condors coach Gerry Fleming liked the look of Ellis’ play last weekend in Ontario when he stopped 67 of 68 shots as the Condors swept the two-game set. That performance earned Ellis AHL Player of the Week honors.
“Nicky played well,” Fleming said. “He did a really good job with his rebound control. A big part of his rebound control is being in spots before the shot’s taken. I thought his movement was quick, there wasn’t wasted movement. I thought he was square and as a result he controlled his rebounds and swallowed up everything that came his way.”
Simple, yet detailed.
“It’s definitely huge for my confidence early in the year to have a really good weekend,” Ellis said. “Hopefully I can just build off that and move forward. Keep working hard in practice and the games will take care of themselves.”
Ellis was a backup as a sophomore to Jon Gillies (now with the Stockton Heat) at Providence College in 2014-15, as the Friars went on to become NCAA champions.
Ellis came into his own as a junior, putting up the best goaltending numbers in Providence history with a 1.80 goals-against average and .936 save percentage in what would be his last collegiate season. He was signed to a two-year contract by the Oilers in April, 2016.
“I thought I was ready,” Ellis said of his decision to leave college early. “I thought I dominated my junior year and it was kind of going to be tough to replicate another year just like that, so I felt I was ready.
“This opportunity came up and I’m extremely thankful that I made this decision and I believe it was the right decision to leave early.”
Ellis had a solid rookie campaign last season, becoming the No. 1 after Laurent Brossoit was called up to Edmonton and going 16-12-1 with a 2.68 GAA and .918 save percentage.
Ellis said he spent much of the offseason working on fundamentals in an effort to take his game to the next level. His mental approach has also changed.
“This year I’m trying to learn how to stay grounded with the highs and lows,” he said. “It’s a long season, there’s going to be highs and going to be lows. You just kind of have to stay even-keeled, come to work every day and try to have as much fun as possible.”
The goaltending position can produce the highest highs and the lowest lows, but Ellis said he has relished playing the position since he was a youngster.
“I started off as a forward for a little bit but once I saw the goalie position and how they moved and the gear and stuff, I knew I wanted to do that,” he said. “I just like stopping pucks. It’s just fun.”