Virden Oil Capitals rookie goaltender Kyle Kozma said the support of the community has helped him succeed since he joined the team.
After being added from the Alberta Junior Hockey League in October, the 18-year-old rookie won five of his first seven appearances. On the season, he has a 9-4 record with a 2.68 goals against average and .906 save percentage in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. As of Sunday, the Vaughan, Ont. product has won four of his last five games.
“Everyone here is so welcoming and excited about the team. The amount of support we get is amazing,” said Kozma, who billets with the Shelby and Robin Rampton family. “Interacting with the fans away from rink is also fun. I also really enjoy my billets. I think being able to feel welcome and relaxed in their home helps me focus on playing better.”
Virden head coach Tyson Ramsey said that in Kozma’s short time with the Oil Caps, the 6-foot-3, 195-pounder has turned himself into one of the best young goalies in the league.
“He continues to work hard at his game and gets better everyday,” Ramsey said. “He has a great frame and moves very well from side to side. He has a calmness that allows him to be consistent in his approach. He installs confidence in our group and allows us the opportunity to win every night. We are extremely lucky to have Kyle on our roster.”
Kozma was the MJHL’s MGEU Goaltender of the Month for November and a runner-up for the IBAM Rookie of the Month. For the week ending on Dec. 15, Kozma was one of the league’s Recycle Everywhere Stars of the Week.
As someone who grew up in a community with a 2016 population of 306,233 just north of Toronto, Kozma acknowledged there has been a culture change in coming to Virden. It is one he has enjoyed.
“Virden is a tight community where everyone is very nice and supports others,” he said. “I like being here and interacting with people in the town through volunteer work or just seeing them on the street. It makes me feel like I’m a real part of Virden.”