Herald-Tribune staff

Not too many players travel south to attend a Grande Prairie Storm training camp.
Fewer still travel 1,900 kilometres south.

But when your hockey team moves from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, your options diminish.

Meet Nick Kulmanovsky – a goalie without a team, at least for now.

Should everything work out as he plans, he will be donning a GP Storm jersey come opening night, Sept. 7.

“The Fairbanks Ice Dogs are still in the league up there, but the team I played on, the Alaska Avalanche, relocated to Johnstown for this season, so I had to go somewhere,” he said.
So he packed his bags and headed south, to Alberta.

Kulmanovsky was born and raised in Fairbanks – his father played hockey at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“I’ve been around hockey pretty much my whole life,” said Nick.

He started as a forward and changed to goalie at nine years old.

Kulmanovsky still remembers the reason for the switch – typical nine-year-old logic.

“Patrick Roy – I liked his pads,” he said. “I started as a goalie then and played through peewee and bantam in Fairbanks, then went to Culver Academies (Indiana).”

Once his Indiana schooling days were finished, he returned to Fairbanks to play junior hockey in the North American Hockey League for the Alaska Avalanche. When the relocation announcement was made for the franchise, Kulmanovsky went searching for a new winter home.

The Storm connection, and particularly general manager Blaine Bablitz’s connection, to Fairbanks is direct.

Bablitz went to UAF for his post-secondary education after playing for the Storm.

“I still have ties to the coaching staff that work there,” said Bablitz. “I was put onto (Kulmanovsky) from the guys that are coaching in Fairbanks.”

“Blaine Bablitz really seemed interested and I talked to Dallas Ferguson at UAF and he basically told me that I should go where I am wanted,” said the 5-foot-10, 170-pound 18-year-old. “So that helped make my decision.”

Kulmanovsky played 37 games for the Avalanche in the 2011-2012 season, compiling a 21-11-2-3 record, with a goals against average of 2.61 and a save percentage of .906.

Bablitz had a chance to see Kulmanovsky in person, earlier this summer at a United States Hockey League camp.

“He was property of the Fargo Force of the USHL so I went down there to watch him,” said Bablitz. “In the three games I watched he didn’t let in a goal, so I definitely liked what I saw.”

The timing is right for Kulmanovsky. With only one returning goalie in Storm camp (Curtis Skip) Kulmanovsky knows that there will be at least one new face in the Storm net this season. Besides, coming from Alaska, should he make the team, he won’t have to adjust to the winters.

“Not at all,” he said.

In fact, he may appreciate the long days here in January.