WICHITA, Kan. – For the Wichita Thunder, one of the luxuries of having their affiliation with the Edmonton Oilers has been having at least one, at times two, netminders sent down to the club from the AHL.
That luxury was a bit of a curse last season. Most notably, there was the incredibly long stretch Stuart Skinner played while Dylan Wells was on the shelf with an upper-body injury, 16 consecutive games to be exact. In all, 13 netminders suited up for Wichita last year, but only seven saw game action.
Even though the Thunder are expected to receive at least one goaltender from Bakersfield this coming season, likely Wells, head coach Bruce Ramsay added a very solid netminder to fortify the goaltending situation for the upcoming season. Today, the team announced they have signed former Worcester Railers netminder Mitch Gillam to a contract for the coming season.
“One of my focuses when I took this job over was to solidify the goaltending position,” stated Head Coach Bruce Ramsay. “When you have an affiliation and you get a goaltender from them, you always have to be prepared for that goalie to get called up. Injuries happen in the system and we wanted to get an elite goaltender at this level. Mitch had an outstanding career in junior and college. He’s been an elite goalie so far as a pro and we’re really excited to have him in the fold.”
The 26-year-old netminder is coming off a two-year stint with the Railers where he put together a pair of solid seasons. In his two seasons, he had a regular-season record of 44-30-2-3, with a 2.61 goals against average, a .916 save percentage and six shutouts. In the Kelly Cup Playoffs, he went 1-1, had a 2.88 goals against average, an .857 save percentage with a shutout in three appearances.
Last season, the Railers suffered a bit of a sophomore slump, according to Railers correspondent Dylan Schofield, and that slump was reflective in Gillam’s numbers. He went 21-16-2-3, with a 3.07 goals against average, a .906 save percentage and a shutout. Playing in Ramsay’s tighter defensive system, one would expect to see the numbers from his rookie season, versus the numbers from last year.
Before signing with Worcester before the Railers’ inaugural season, Gillam suited up in two regular-season games and four Kelly Cup Playoff games with the Orlando Solar Bears, where he went 0-3 in three appearances.
Gillam had a stellar collegiate career with Cornell University of the Ivy League. There, he compiled a record of 47-28-17, a 2.23 goals against average, a .921 save percentage and recorded 11 shutouts, tied for fourth-most in school history. Seven of the 11 shutouts came in 2015-16, where he started all of the team’s 34 games. The seven shutouts are tied for the third-most in a single season in program history.
His best year at the school came in his senior season in 2016-17, where he backstopped the Big Red to the ECAC Hockey Championship finals and its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2012. That year, he was Cornell’s lone nominee for the famed Hobey Baker award.
In a bit of trivia, Gillam became the eighth goaltender in NCAA history to score a goal, doing so on November 26, 2013, against Niagara.
The addition of Gillam to the Thunder preseason roster means there are ten players under contract for the upcoming season. You can stay up-to-date on all of the ECHL player signings around the league with our 2019 ECHL Transactions page!