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Former Austin Bruins goalie Jake Kielly, left, signed an entry-level contract with the Vancouver Canucks organization in early April. Kielly is one of four or five Canucks goalies who will battle for an NHL roster spot in training camp.

Almost five years have passed since Jake Kielly played hockey in southeastern Minnesota.

But the former Austin Bruins goalie still clearly remembers the one time then-Bruins head coach Chris Tok pulled him aside.

It only took one time for Kielly to know the Bruins coaches meant business.

"If something wasn't right, Tok and (then-assistant coach Jamie Huffman) would bring you into the coaches' room and get you back into shape quickly," Kielly said. "The only time he had to pull me in and have a conversation was about an attitude (issue) that happened during a game with me.

"I still carry that conversation with me to this day. He expected all of us, whether we were 16 years old or 21, to act like men. I really loved and respected that."

Kielly has carried those lessons he learned in Austin with him since he left at the end of the 2014-15 season.

The Eden Prairie native carried them to Tri-City in the USHL in the 2015-16 season, then to NCAA Division I Clarkson University from 2016-19.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound 23-year-old said he'll bring those lessons from Austin with him this fall, too, when he attempts to win an NHL roster spot with the Vancouver Canucks.

Kielly signed with Vancouver as a free agent on April 1, just three days after his junior season at Clarkson ended with a heartbreaking 3-2 overtime loss against Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

He joined the Canucks immediately, practicing and traveling with the team for the final two games of the regular season.

"It's been a bit of an emotional roller coaster," Kielly said of the past three months. "When the college season ended, it was a bit of a shocker. We thought we were going to keep playing.

"Then, (two days) later I woke up to a call from my agent, who said Vancouver was going to bring me in. I spent a whole day gathering my stuff, calling my parents, coaches, friends, family ... it was a fun, wild week."

Kielly was back in Vancouver last week, one of four goalies — including highly touted 20-year-old Michael DiPietro, a 2017 third-round draft pick who played an NHL game last year at just 19 years old — participating in the Canucks' development camp.

Kielly is the only one of the four who was not drafted, but that only served as motivation, he said.

"It was an awesome experience," said Kielly, who had participated in NHL prospects camps each of the past three summers, all with different teams. "This year meant a little more than the others did. The others, I was just trying to get my name out there. This time I'm trying to get myself prepared for an AHL or NHL season."

Kielly was one of the most sought-after college free agents this past spring. He played three seasons at Clarkson, going 64-37-13 as a starter. He posted a 1.91 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage this past season as a junior. Kielly was named one of the top 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to college hockey's best player.

He said the transition from being a college goalie to a pro goalie was a quick one.

"(Development camp) starts at the most basic level, guys out on the ice competing for a goaltending spot," Kielly said. "In college, you get a sense of stability, of comfort. You know there aren't going to be a lot of surprises.

"Then you get to camp and the competition with the other three guys, it brings out the best in all of us. You have to be a competitive person to make it this far as a goalie. You can't crumble because of the competition, because other guys are pushing you."

For now, Kielly is one of three goalies listed on Vancouver's roster, along with 25-year-old Jacob Markstrom, who started 60 games last season for the Canucks, and 35-year-old Thatcher Demko, who started nine games. Kielly said he'll be given a fair chance in training camp to show what he can do.

If Kielly doesn't make the NHL roster out of camp, he will likely end up back in New York. Vancouver's top minor-league affiliate is based in Utica, N.Y., about 130 miles south of Clarkson's campus in Potsdam.

"They haven't mentioned anything about where they expect me to (play next year)," Kielly said. "Right now, with the way things are shaking out in the organization, they want to have four or five guys come to camp and compete.

"They're good about giving players the chances they need and learned a lot at camp last week that will help me take the steps I need to take."

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Sports Reporter

Jason has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter and columnist since 2004 and covers high school football, volleyball, softball, golf, hockey, junior hockey and auto racing. He is a 1999 graduate of the University of North Dakota.