‘A matter of opportunity’: Goalie Pat Nagle shines with Griffins

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — After chasing opportunities in minor league hockey for nearly a decade, goalie Pat Nagle made it to the Grand Rapids Griffins. The team soon found itself depending on him.

He is what you might call a journeyman — an athlete that while not flashy or spectacular is solid. Journeymen aren’t the sort of guys you’ll find in a hall of fame, but they do generally stay employed.

Nagle earned All-American honors at Ferris State University. When it was time to go pro, he signed a free agent deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2011 and helped lead the Florida Everblades to an ECHL Kelly Cup title. But over the next eight seasons, he had the chance to play in only eight American Hockey League Teams. He donned the jersey for four different teams, including the Griffins.

“You talk about perseverance and belief in yourself, and I think Pat’s done a really good job of maintaining that belief over the years,” Griffins head coach Ben Simon said.

“It’s just a matter of opportunity,” Nagle said. “I’m sure there’s a lot of other guys that have been in that position and either didn’t get it, or, I mean, you’ve got to get lucky at the right time, too, whenever that door opens.”

In 2018, a door opened. He returned to the Detroit Red Wings organization and was given a job with the Toledo Walleye. It was a natural fit for the metro Detroit native.

“He sees the Toledo and Grand Rapids areas as home and it’s like the perfect organization, having gone to Ferris State and it’s his home state,” Griffins goaltending coach Brian Mahoney-Wilson said.

Over the next two seasons, Nagle became the winningest goaltender in Walleye history.

He was called up and played 20 games with the Griffins last season. He shined with a .920 save percentage before the pandemic brought hockey to a halt.

“He did a tremendous job for us and he was one of the main reasons we were putting ourselves in playoff contention,” Simon said.

“It was massive for me just to get into a rhythm, get some games under my belt,” Nagle said.

His numbers have been even better three games into this season, with 2.32 goals against average and a .937 save percentage.

“He’s put us in a position to win every single night,” team captain Brian Lashoff said. “And I can’t say enough about him as a person. He’s great to have in the locker room.”

“It’s been great, just trying to build off last season,” Nagle said. “For me, it’s playing well every day, working hard and trying to improve my game.”

By that measure, it’s so far, so good.