Even in defeat, a dream came true.
San Jose Sharks goaltender Eetu Makiniemi — pronounced “Ehhh-toe” — made his NHL debut last night against the Vancouver Canucks.
The 23-year-old relieved starting goalie Kaapo Kahkonen at the start of the third period, with the Sharks behind 4-3.
“Of course, it got me a little bit nervous, but I feel like that got my body going a little bit. It was nice to get it done there,” Makiniemi said after the game. “It was a dream come true. What can I say? I’ve been waiting to be here since I got drafted.”
Along with forward Steven Lorentz, the Finnish netminder was a piece of the trade that sent Brent Burns to the Carolina Hurricanes back in July. The Hurricanes drafted Makiniemi in the fourth round of the 2017 Draft.
Once the rookie entered the game, the San Jose Sharks ratcheted up their defending — Makiniemi did not face a shot on goal for the first 12 minutes of the period. The Sharks ended up taking a 5-4 lead but were unable to finish the job and fell in OT 6-5. Makiniemi finished the game with six saves.
Despite the shotgun circumstances and the noticeable speed difference between the NHL and the AHL, the Vantaa native is ready for more action: “Now I know what it is…it wasn’t too much for me.”
Unfortunately, because of the time difference — Finland is 10 hours ahead of San Jose — none of Makiniemi’s family and friends watched his NHL debut live.
But after the game?
“I got maybe 15 or 20 text messages from my family,” Makiniemi beamed, after practice Thursday. “It was nice, of course, but I would like to have had the win there, but it was a nice experience.”
The most special conversation was with his father Jari and mother Kristina, who he spoke with on the phone after the game.
“My parents did a lot for me when I was younger,” Makiniemi said. “I didn’t have a car. They took me to the rink every day, and needed to give up a little bit of free time for work and stuff like that. So they did a lot for me, and I’m so grateful for that. And yeah, that’s probably the main reason why I’m here.”
Although his family still lives back in Vantaa, the netminder said that his parents have a trip planned to San Jose in February.
It might be the first time that they see him play in North America: Makiniemi told San Jose Hockey Now that his parents came to Chicago while he played for the Wolves, but unfortunately for Eetu and his parents, he was injured during their visit.
Makiniemi has been playing for the San Jose Barracuda in the AHL. In 12 games for the Cuda this season, Makiniemi owns a record of 6-4-1-1 with a GAA of 2.58 and a save percentage of .918.
San Jose Sharks head coach David Quinn has not announced who will be starting Friday’s game in Anaheim.
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