Malcolm in the middle

Senior is the man in goal for 2 sports

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There aren't any great stories about how Malcolm Hillewaert became a goalie.

"I just tried it out, and I was good at it," he said.

It's what happened after he decided to step in front of the nets that make the story.

Hillewaert played soccer most of his life, but in seventh grade, his team needed a goalie, and he decided to give it a try. A couple of years later, he tried hockey and his natural fit was between the pipes.

Now in his senior year of high school, Hillewaert has excelled as the man in front of the net for both sports.

"Being a goalie in both has helped me improve more than I would if I were just a goalie in one," he said. "I learn the angles by playing both sports, and it keeps my reaction time fresh."

Hillewaert's reaction time allowed him to lead Colorado's Class 4A soccer in saves this year. His 262 saves were 50 more than the second-place goalie. His 22-save game against the state's second-best scoring team Broomfield had the reporter covering the Eagles asking "does that kid always play out-of-his-mind good?"

Even his soccer coach had to pick his jaw off the field a couple of times after saves.

"Malcolm made some incredible saves this year," coach Jeff Hammond said. "I can think of four or five games that he kept us in the game with his saves."

Not always beneficial

The techniques for hockey and soccer goalies aren't entirely the same. In hockey, the goalie blocks the lower part of the goal first and then uses the glove and body for the upper shots. In soccer a keeper doesn't have a priority area, he just reacts to the ball.

The difference has put Hillewaert in tough situations at times.

"Sometimes, I'll try a kick-save in soccer," he said. "That usually doesn't work well because I have to get down and get on the ball instead of using my feet."

Before this year, Hillewaert came to the start of the soccer season after attending a hockey camp.

"We'd almost have to start over," Hammond said. "He wanted to stop the ball with his feet too much. That leads to loose balls in front of the goal."

This year, Hillewaert came into the soccer season off of a summer playing for El Mexico, an adult team in Craig.

In the tournament championship of El Mexico's league, Hillewaert stopped two penalty kicks to help his team win a shootout. Because of his time with El Mexico, he was locked into soccer mode when the fall came around.

Now hockey season gets under way in two weeks.

"I think I'm going to do all right," he said. "I just have to get my position with my skates down, and I'll be good to go."

Quick reactions

Hillewaert is quick.

He's been asked to run track this year because of his speed.

He also has good hands.

There were football players talking this year about his ability to catch in gym class.

"I've had other coaches talk to me during high school," he said. "It takes a good athlete to be in goal and I guess they think my ability would help their team."

Other coaches didn't succeed in pulling him away from the friendly confines between his posts.

"I talk to them and have to touch them before each game," he said. "It's important to appreciate them."

Since his sophomore year, Hillewaert has been talking to the posts as a starter, even though he started hockey late.

His first experience with hockey was in a street hockey game in middle school. He took the goalie position because it was the natural one for him to take.

"I picked up hockey fast because of my experience in soccer," he said. "I understood what it took."

While a hockey goalie can dictate where an opponent shoots more than a soccer goalie, the strategy to cross up a potential scorer is similar.

"It's a lot about angles," Hillewaert said. "I also try to understand what my opponents is going to do before he does it in both sports."

With all of that said, does he miss having a chance to score a goal?

"I think I'm a goalie," he said. "I'd rather stop people from scoring than get a goal."

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