Season Recap: Veini VehvilainenJul 29, 2020
Fresh to North American hockey, goaltender Veini Vehvilainen had help as he navigated an adjustment period at the beginning of the 2019-20 season when he joined the Cleveland Monsters.
Known among his teammates as Wayne, Vehvilainen’s transition was made easier with three-year veteran Matiss Kivlenieks sharing time in between the pipes and 11-year veteran Brad Thiessen acting as a third goaltender and coach to the pair.
“It was a real good experience working with Wayne because it was his first time coming to [North American hockey], so there was a lot being thrown at him. At the beginning of the year I was just focusing on building a relationship with him,” said Thiessen. “That way he knew that he could rely on me whether I was trying to teach him through video, on the ice or with experiences that I had gone through in the past. He learned that he could trust that what I was saying was going to help him and put him in a position to succeed.”
The newcomer got off to a fast start playing in the Monsters second game of the season stopping 30 shots en route to a 4-1 victory and his first professional North American win. Continuing to split time with Kivlenieks, Vehvilainen held a 2-2-0 record during October which included his first of three shutouts during the campaign with 29 saves.
Starting in November, Vehvilainen’s goaltending partners began to change with call ups and development efforts taking place. Continuing throughout the season, Vehvilainen soon was splitting more of his time on the ice with the veteran netminder that had built a relationship as a coach.
“We got into a spot where Wayne and I were playing together as partners, so I was able to be on the inside and see his growth,” said Thiessen. "He had some situations where the games were a lot harder and he was facing more quality shots than the beginning of the year. Still, he used it and made really big strides in his game with a lot of things.”
Playing in 33 games throughout the season, the Jyvaskyla, Finland native’s best month came in December when he posted a 3-2-1 record. In February, Vehvilainen recorded his top shutout moment of the year after holding off 34 shots in the Monsters 3-0 win.
Vehvilainen closed out the season making his way into the franchise record books in three categories which included tying for eighth place with three shutouts, ninth place with 2.76 goals against average and 10th place for his 0.901 save percentage.
With numerous high notes throughout Vehvilainen’s inaugural year, Thiessen only expects bigger and better things from his latest goalie partner.
“He made [a lot of] improvements from the beginning of the year to the end,” said Thiessen. “I think Wayne can take that into the offseason and continue to work [while looking back] with confidence that he can succeed at this level.”