DENVER (AP) — Cale Makar made an instant impact.
The Colorado Avalanche defenseman made franchise history when he scored a playoff goal in his NHL debut during Game 3 against Calgary, his favorite childhood team.
Makar zipped through the neutral zone Monday night, took a pass from Nathan MacKinnon and beat Flames goaltender Mike Smith with a wrist shot late in the first period to make it 3-0.
Quickly skating over to congratulate Makar was Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog. Celebrating in the crowd were Makar’s parents.
“It’s a total surreal, pinch-me moment all wrapped into one. It’s insane,” Gary Makar told The Associated Press. “Couldn’t be more excited.”
The 20-year-old Makar signed a three-year deal with Colorado on Sunday — a day after his college season ended when Massachusetts lost in the Frozen Four championship game to Minnesota Duluth.
Wearing No. 8, Makar jumped on the ice early in the first period and was given a loud cheer. Each time he did anything, the crowd cheered.
“You just shake your head,” his father said. “The crowd, every time he gets the puck, guys, he’s just a kid. No expectations.”
Growing up in Calgary, Makar and his family were big Flames fans. He joked they are “fully Avs converted now.”
“It’s a weird feeling going up against the team you grew up loving, but my allegiance lies with the Colorado Avalanche now,” Makar said. “It’s going to be an interesting feeling.”
It may be time to update the apparel, though.
“We’ve got a lot of Flames fans in our family and we probably own everything they make, merchandise-wise,” his father said.
Makar, the fourth overall pick by Colorado in 2017, had 49 points for UMass and won the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top player. He practiced Monday morning with the Avalanche for the first time. He made an immediate impression, too.
“He’s so smooth and so agile,” MacKinnon said. “You can kind of tell why he was so dominant in college.
“It’s not easy to come into this atmosphere. I don’t know how much he’s going to play or whatever. But he looks great out there.”
As for nerves, Makar was doing his best to keep them at bay.
“I’m just going to go out there and if I play will try to do my thing,” Makar said. “Just go out there and do what they need me to do. I’ll provide offense if I have to and hope to be steady on the defense as well.”