Yaniv Perets always knew he wanted to be a goalie, he just needed to learn how to skate first.
“When I was around three years old, I started playing street hockey and I was always in net,” Perets explained. “When I got started on ice, I was a player until I learned how to skate, then I kept volunteering as the goalie and it just stuck.”
Perets says his parents were fully supportive of his decision to play in net, knowing how much he loved the game and being around the rink with his older brother all the time.
As the years went on, Perets had the opportunity to play his first midget season for his hometown team, the Lac St. Louis Lions.
“I lived about two minutes away from that rink, and that organization has pushed so many players to the next level,” Perets said. “It’s such a good program and I owe them so much for my development that season.”
The Lions boast NHL alumni such as Jonathan Drouin and Anthony Duclair, as well as the 30thoverall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Joe Veleno.
During the 2015-16 season, Perets appeared in 28 games for the Lions posting a 3.21 goals against average and an .890 save percentage. His goaltending partner, Sandro Silvestre, played five fewer games but posted nearly identical statistics. When playoffs rolled around, it was the 18-year-old Silvestre who was the starting goalie.
“He played the year before and got them all the way to the finals,” Perets said. “I understood it, I knew I was a younger guy. I just wanted to come to practice every day and try to help my teammates get better.”
After falling in the QMAAA finals the year before, the Lions got over the hump and won the championship that season, punching their ticket to the Midget AAA National Championship, the Telus Cup.
The event was held in Quispamsis, New Brunswick, and Perets got into two games. He was perfect in both, shutting out the Saskatoon Contacts and the Saint John Vito’s in his two round robin starts.
Despite having a clean slate over two games, it was again Silvestre getting the start in the semi-final game against the Vito’s, where the Lions fell 2-1.
“It was such a surreal experience to be there,” Perets recalled. “I’m a competitor and I want to be in the net every game, but I kind of understand it. He was the goalie throughout the playoffs.”
The Lions would claim bronze at the tournament with a 6-2 win over the Lloydminster Bobcats.
Despite and excellent rookie season in the midget ranks, Perets didn’t hear his name called during the 2016 QMJHL Draft. That wasn’t a problem for him.
“For me, it was always school. I made that clear to every team I spoke with,” Perets said. “Ever since day one I’ve wanted to play Division I hockey. I thought for my development it was a much better route to take. Even after my first year of junior I didn’t look to sign anywhere.”
Perets made the jump to junior hockey after one season of midget, playing the 2016-17 season with the Brockville Braves of the Canadian Central Hockey League. Though based in Ontario, Brockville is just a short two-hour drive from his hometown of Dollard-des-Ormeaux.
“I wanted to make that jump to junior hockey, and I think I made big strides in my game that season,” Perets said. “Even though I was the backup goalie, I learned a lot and got a decent amount of playing time as one of the youngest players in the league.”
Perets posted an 8-8-1 record that season with the Braves, getting into 18 games of action. He was stuck behind Henry Johnson, a 20-year-old who would go on to be named the CCHL’s goalie of the year.
The following season Perets returned to Brockville for his second season, but six games into the year had an opportunity to play in the United States.
“The way things worked out I just wanted a different start,” Perets admitted. “I thought the Junior Bruins were a good program and I had a chance to go play there, so I just took it. I’m obviously really happy with what I did because that program got me my NCAA commitment.”
The Boston Junior Bruins play in the National Collegiate Development Conference, a 13-team league located entirely within the Northeastern USA, with teams in places like Connecticut, New Jersey and Long Island.
Upon arriving in Boston, Perets was the clear number one goaltender and helping the Bruins get to the league semi-final.
“That was the idea of why I went down there, I wanted to play,” Perets said. “I was competing with some really good goalies but it was just a matter of going in and doing your job. If you show up, you’ll play and if you don’t, you won’t play. That’s what I really respected with the coaching staff.”
The following season, Perets took his game to a new level, culminating with being named the NCDC’s top goalie. He went 23-10-1, had a 2.48 goals against average and a .929 save percentage to go along with six shutouts. The Bruins finished second overall in the league and would eventually claim the league championship.
“We always knew we had a good group up guys. Even if we were losing, we had that mindset that we were the team to beat,” he said.
Early that season, Perets received his NCAA scholarship to Qunnipiac University, something that fueled him to play even better.
“When I was uncommitted, I just went out and focused on myself and doing the best I could,” he explained. “After I got committed, I wanted to go out there and show why I was committed. Every time you step on the ice, you’re representing that school.”
The playoff format in the NCDC is a best of three for each round, and after sweeping their opening round, the Bruins went to a deciding game three in the next two rounds.
A win-or-go-home style of game can be nerve wracking for a player, but Perets says he was able to draw on previous big-game experience to help him prepare for those two game three’s.
“I got some experience in playoffs the year before, and I work a lot on the mental side of my game,” he said. “Being calm and cool is something I work on a lot. I don’t always see it as an elimination game, I just go out and try to help my team win.”
Perets also mentioned his experience at the Quebec Olympics as a 15-year-old, where he started four of five games and backstopped his team to a gold medal.
In game three of the league final, the Junior Bruins had a 3-2 lead heading into the third period against the Connecticut Junior Rangers. The Bruins were outshot 18-7 over the final frame but held on for the win and the championship.
“They were playing desperate hockey,” Perets said. “They were throwing pucks on net from everywhere and got a few power plays, but I just had to do my part and hold them off. We had done it all season long; it was just one more period to lock it down. It’s kind of crazy when you think about it. You work so hard over the summer, every practice and all season. It leads up to that moment and it makes everything so worth it.”
Before he heads to Quinnipiac in the fall of 2020, Perets knew he had one more season of junior to prepare himself for the leap. And he knew exactly where he wanted to go.
“I’ve always known about the Vees program, it’s the best organization in junior ‘A’ hockey,” Perets stated. “I always wanted to play there, and when I knew I had to play another season of junior I told myself I would love the opportunity to come play in Penticton.”
He has clearly done his homework on the Vees, as Perets couldn’t be more excited to be joining the team.
“I can’t even put into words how excited I am to come to Penticton and play for the Vees,” he said. “They average over 3,000 fans a game, the facilities are amazing and the whole town gets behind the team. It’s a first-class organization and I can’t wait to be a part of that tradition.”
Perets cited wanting to join past goaltenders that have made their way through Penticton, especially Michael Garteig who also went to Qunnipiac University upon graduating from the Vees.
After getting a taste of what it feels like to win a league championship this past year, Perets’ goals for 2019-20 are obvious.
“It’s just to win again,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to play in the National Championship and I think Penticton has a great chance to get there. It’s always been a dream of mine to play for Team Canada at the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge as well. It’s my last year of junior, I want to enjoy it as much as I can. It’s just a matter of coming in every day and doing what you can to get better. If you do that, the rest will take care of itself.”
Fans in Penticton hope the Vees can take care of business this year, and punch their ticket to the National Championship in Portage, Manitoba.