Sports Person of the Week
Geist Finds His Stride Between the Pipes
Junior Aidan Geist is in his third season as the starting goalkeeper for the North Branford boys’ ice hockey team. (Photo courtesy of Aidan Geist)
Aidan Geist only had about a year of experience playing goalie when he was put into the varsity net as a freshman. Aidan has been stopping shots ever since while holding on to the starting goalkeeper’s position with the North Branford boys’ ice hockey team for the past three seasons.
Aidan was introduced to hockey at age three by his grandmother’s cousin, who ran the learn-to-skate program in Northford. As soon as he laced up his skates, Aidan fell in love with the game and was eager to compete alongside his friends.
“I loved it. I loved playing with my friends at a young age,” says Aidan. “I eventually progressed and got better. Then, it got more fun.”
After one season in Northford’s mite development program, Aidan spent his youth hockey career with playing for the Greater New Haven Warriors. Aidan primarily played either forward or defender until his second year of bantams.
As he was heading into high school, Aidan took a look at North Branford’s roster and saw that the T-Birds only had one goalie. Aidan felt that he could help the team out if he stepped into the net and, after serving as both a keeper and an ice player during his first year of bantams, he decided to make the full-time switch to goalie.
“I always wanted to be a goalie, but I stuck to player,” Aidan says. “The first year wasn’t bad, but in my second year of bantams, I really got the hang of it. I really played well for that team.”
To prepare for the high school level, Aidan started taking lessons with Connecticut Crease. The Greater New Haven Warriors also gave him one free lesson a week. On top of that, Aidan attended camps and played on multiple teams to get ready for his first year at North Branford.
Aidan began his freshman year as the T-Birds’ backup goalie, but after the starter suffered a season-ending injury, Aidan became the starting netminder. Aidan felt a little nervous about going up against upperclassmen in only his second year playing goalie.
The speed of the game came as a shock, and he was facing harder shots than he had ever taken. However, whenever the going got tough, Aidan reminded himself that his team needed him and was counting on him to make saves.
“It was really rough that first year. I was a smaller kid playing against a bunch of seniors. Their shots were so much harder than what I’ve experienced before,” says Aidan. “But I stuck with it. I knew I had to get better and step up for my team. Thank God I did.”
Aidan became North Branford’s full-fledged netminder in his sophomore season and felt much more prepared than he did as a freshman. Aidan had grown both physically and mentally and now understood what the competition at the varsity level was all about.
Aidan has taken that same mindset into his junior season and feels quite comfortable between the pipes.
“It’s completely different. I’ve learned so much,” Aidan says. “I learned early on that confidence is the key to everything. You just have to stay confident and stay true to yourself. You have to feel that you can do it, and you will.”
Aidan has developed some specific techniques to aid his play as a goalkeeper. After playing in the youth level for so long, Aidan recognizes many of his competitors when he sees them on the ice and knows how to defend them. If he isn’t familiar with them, Aidan makes sure to stay calm, get in the right position, and take each play at it comes.
“I know a lot of players. Growing up, I would play against them,” says Aidan. “I know how they shoot, how they play. If I don’t know them, I just brace for it and make sure I’m in position. Just play it by the second.”
After watching him get pressed into varsity action as a freshman, North Branford Head Coach Ralph Shaw has been impressed with Aidan’s progression over the past three years. Shaw says that when Aidan succeeds, the T-Birds succeed, and that the junior goalie is the type of player any team would be lucky to build around.
“Aidan’s game has been developing since the start of the season. His confidence in net has improved with each game,” Shaw says. “When he is on, the team plays well in front of him. Any program wants to build from the net out, and Aidan is that guy for the T-Birds.
While he loved skating on the ice, Aidan knew that switching to goalie was in the best interest of North Branford hockey squad. Aidan is always looking to make his team proud and feels honored to be the anchor in net for the T-Birds.
“It’s great. I get to play for all my friends. I get to play in front of the other students who watch us play,” says Aidan. “It’s great to know that I’m playing for some sort of cause—and that’s to make our team proud.”