TORONTO (AP) — A year ago, goaltender Garret Sparks was in the midst of a 13-game trip with the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears. A night after allowing four goals to the Fort Wayne Komets, he was on the bench in Kalamazoo, Mich., awaiting the next bus ride and his next start.
“You have a duffel bag and you don’t get to go home,” Sparks said.
Now, Sparks is in the NHL, making a big first impression.
The 22-year-old became the first Maple Leafs goalie with a shutout in his NHL debut, lifting Toronto over the Edmonton Oilers 3-0 on Monday night.
“They’ve been playing hockey here a long time so I think that’s pretty cool,” said Sparks, who was visibly emotional after being named the game’s first star with his parents watching from the crowd.
Sparks made 24 saves in the Leafs’ first shutout since Jonathan Bernier blanked the Dallas Stars on Dec. 23, 2014.
“Good for the kid,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “Life’s about opportunity and how you respond to that opportunity, obviously he must have some swagger about him, some…