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Since the ripe age of six, Zak Bouve has made it his job and passion to protect the net for the hockey teams he's played for. Now a sophomore on the East Haven squad, the Yellowjackets' starting goalie has made it his mission to be the backbone and spark on a team that is rich with history for the town of East Haven.
"Once I became a better skater, I became a better goalie," says Zak. "It was something I had always wanted to do and I never felt scared of standing in the net."
Zak credits his father as being the person who first introduced hockey to him at the age two when he took him to watch the Beast of New Haven play, after which Zak began competing with East Haven Youth Hockey, followed by stints with the Connecticut Wolves and Southern Stars travel teams.
"I wanted to be a goalie when my dad started taking me to games and he said that if I became a good enough skater and worked hard, I'd get my chance," says Zak. "I feel like I picked it up pretty quickly, but playing hockey in general growing up was kind of hard-we practiced a lot and it took up a lot of time."
Zak amassed a pretty impressive résumé with his travel teams, having played in five state championship games-winning three of those, while also winning three New England Regional championships, twice playing in a national tournament, and also competing in tourneys in Canada, making the semifinals in the Quebec International Pee Wee Tournament with 142 teams from over 60 countries.
Bringing all that experience to East Haven as a freshman last winter, Zak earned a starting spot for the first five games of the season when the Yellowjackets' starting goalie sat out with an injury.
"I got put in last year when our starting goalie was hurt," says Zak of his team which finished 13-8 last season, losing to Xavier in the first round of the playoffs. "I was actually very nervous-I played in the first five games and we won the first four and lost the fifth one. I came in a few minutes here and there the rest of the season, but never got another start. But I will always remember getting my first shutout last year when we won against Wilton, 4-0."
With last year's goalie having graduated, Zak got the call this campaign and has so far helped the team to a 6-1-1 record-the Yellowjackets' first loss coming against West Haven on Jan. 7.
"It means a lot and I'm really proud to have the starting job," says Zak. "I knew it was a big responsibility and that I had to step up. I'm still younger, but I knew I had to be a backbone and prepare during the offseason for this season."
The youngster's drive and hard work has not gone unnoticed by anyone who watches East Haven hockey, particularly Head Coach Lou Pane.
"Zak has proven to our team that he is a gamer and he plays big when it's game time," said Pane. "He knows what it takes to win."
With the 2011-'12 season still very young, Zak and the Yellowjackets have raised the bar high for this campaign and strive for nothing less than a state title.
"As a team, we always want to make the playoffs, then make the state championship and win it," says Zak, who plays in the offseason with CHC Youth Hockey. "My personal goal is to beat the all-time shutout record in East Haven goalie history and also in wins. I'd like to thank my parents, Keith and Cheryl, for all of the time and money they've put into my career, my coach, Lou Pane, because he's always pushing me everyday, and even if I'm having a bad game, he knows what he can get out of me. Another coach I'd like to thank is Anthony DiLungo because he comes to all my games and is always supporting me."