Hard Work and Perseverance from Liam Sztuska Created an Opportunity of a Lifetime
In the Ontario Hockey League, a small number of goalies get the opportunity to play for an OHL club. Even fewer get the task of manning the crease game in and game out as the number one goaltender. After three seasons of watching other goalies get the opportunity, Liam Sztuska finally gets his chance to be the everyday netminder for the Peterborough Petes.
Sztuska, a Mississauga, ON, native, was drafted in the fifth round of the 2020 OHL Priority Selection draft by the Petes. With the 2020/21 OHL season canceled due to COVID-19, he would have to wait another year to prove himself. When he arrived at camp in August, he had a tough challenge ahead of him. But his hard work paid off as Sztuska cracked the roster and became the team’s third goalie. During the 21/22 and the 22/23 season, Sztuska worked on his skills with veteran goaltenders and Petes Associate Coach Andrew Verner. When the opportunity arose to start, he was up for the task.
From a young age, Sztuska was always drawn to the ice. “I tried being a player once, but I wasn’t a fan. I liked staying on the ice and making big saves,” he remarked. “I watched Carey Price a lot while I was growing up. Watching him give his team a chance every night really made me want to be a goalie.”
Throughout his OHL journey, Sztuska hasn’t had to go through the ups and downs alone. “I’ve had some tough times, but I have a great support system around me. My parents and billets help me out all the time,” he said. “My trainers back home are also there. Brando, Yusuf, Abdul, George, Bill Hoover, all these guys push me every day, help me to keep going and never give up.”
Along with the work he puts in on the ice, Sztuska also puts a lot of time in off the ice. “I enjoy reading and do it a lot. One of the books I read this summer was about David Goggins, retired American Navy SEAL and ultramarathon runner,” explained Sztuska. “The book is about perseverance and grit. Reading books like that help to put me in the right mindset while I’m on the ice.”
“Sometimes it’s going to be hard and you’re not going to want to do it, but those are the days that you have to. Having the challenges I’ve had in the past, I’m proud to say that I didn’t give up,” Sztuska remarked. “I try to take it one day at a time, one save at a time, one puck at a time and control what I can control.”
Despite the challenges, Sztuska had the opportunity to achieve something other goalies may never get the chance to. Coming off of OHL honours for Goaltender of the Week and heading into the 2023 OHL Playoffs, Sztuska was ready to face any challenge that came his way on the journey to hoist the J Ross Robertson trophy. “The playoffs and the championship took a lot of perseverance,” Sztuska said. “Being able to win a championship with the team felt amazing.”
Using what he learned during the championship run last season, Sztuska is now ready to continue to grow this season and step into the starting netminder role with the Petes. “I have won in other leagues before, but it was nothing compared to this,” he explained. “I watched the guys come to the rink every day, win or lose, and have the right attitude.”
After last season, Sztuska isn’t looking to be average. Currently leading the league with a .927 save percentage, Sztuska is ready to continue that success this season. “After winning last season, I feel like I have more to prove,” Sztuska said. “I always want to be involved and I’m only as good as the players around me.”