Posted: Jun 24, 2012 6:02 PM
Updated: Jun 24, 2012 6:31 PM
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX - It was a day that last summer seemed so far out of reach, it was almost impossible. Over the summer of 2011, IceRays goaltender Anthony Stolarz was searching for a team to play for. That's when the Corpus Christi IceRays gave him that shot, and did it ever pay off. A year later, Stolarz was sitting inside the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA, alongside his family waiting to see which NHL team would select him in the 2012 Draft.
After trading Sergei Bobrovsky to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Philadelphia Flyers received the 45th overall pick in the draft, along with one pick in the 2013 Draft. That 45th overall pick happened to be Anthony Stolarz.
Stolarz and his family sat halfway up the lower section inside the Consol Energy Center, home of the Pittsburgh Penguins with more anticipation than the first round, which was held on Friday night.
When it was Philadelphia's turn to pick, the Penguins fans filled the arena with booing, but Stolarz and his family could barely even hear it as their sons name was announced as the Flyers second round pick. They all watched with joy as he walked down and put on the jersey for the first time.
"Getting drafted truly was a dream come true for me, said Stolarz. "All those hours going to the rink, all those shots I faced, all those extra hours I put in... it all seemed completely worth it when I heard my name called. I had a lot of butterflies going in my stomach, but as soon as I heard the words ‘from the Corpus Christi IceRays...' they all went away. It was special to share this day with my mom, my dad, my four brothers and IceRays General Manager Pat Dunn."
The 2nd round, 45th overall pick for Stolarz was the highest an NAHL player that was not a member of the US National Team has been selected in the draft since 2001 when Jason Bacashihua (Chicago Freeze) was picked in the 2nd round, 26th overall by the Dallas Stars.
"We are all proud and excited for Anthony and his family," said IceRays head coach Justin Quenneville. "He is very deserving of this huge accomplishment and is proof that hard work does pay off."
In his only season with the Corpus Christi IceRays, Stolarz went 23-22-4 while sporting a 2.84 goals against average and a .920 save percentage.
Stolarz also was selected to play in the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament in Troy, MI. He played on the U18 Select team that was coached by current IceRays bench boss Justin Quenneville.
"What we witnessed today makes it all worthwhile," said IceRays General Manager Pat Dunn. "Anthony's story is such a great one and it is a great day for him, his family, the IceRays organization and the NAHL. It reaffirms that we as a league are doing the right thing for these players to develop them and give them an opportunity like Anthony enjoyed today."
Stolarz was selected Three Stars of the Week on several occasions in the 2011-2012 season.
In August, the Flyers draft pick will head to Lake Placid, NY where he will compete in an evaluation camp for the US National Team before they play in the IIHF World Championships in Russia.
Stolarz was not the only player in the NAHL to get drafted. Connor Hellebuyck of the Odessa Jackalopes, also a netminder, was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in the 5th round, 130th overall.
"This is a big day for Anthony, the IceRays, and the NAHL," Quenneville added.
This is the first NHL Draft pick for the Corpus Christi IceRays in only two seasons in the North American Hockey League.
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