Many younger siblings tend to want to do everything their older brother or sister does when they’re growing up. Tomas Vomacka was no different, starting to play hockey at just four years old because that’s what his brother was doing.
“I always wanted to do everything like my big brother, I always looked up to him.He was a forward, so I was like, ‘Mom, I want to go skate,’” Vomacka said. “So they just took me to the rink. I never played forward or D, they put me straight in the net, so I never really experienced how it is to play as a D or a forward. But that’s how it was. My big brother was playing so I wanted to do the same thing.”
Fast forward over a decade, and now 17-year-old Tomas Vomacka is coming to the United States from his home in the Czech Republic to play hockey professionally. He started playing for the Corpus Christi Ice Rays of the NAHL, where he had a 2.43 goals against average and was a member of the All-South Division First-Team and was the division’s goaltender of the year.
He also could barely speak any English.
“I remember my first talk with my head coach down in Corpus [Christi],” Vomacka said. “He was asking me how I’m doing. And my only answer was ‘yes’ and ‘no’ just cause I did not understand what he was saying.”
It was there UConn assistant coach Joe Pereira helped to convince him to come to Storrs to play hockey.
“He came down to Corpus Christi in Texas once while I was playing,” Vomacka said. “I was still kind of new on the whole college thing, and I knew I wanted to go to college, but I didn’t know much, and he was kind of the first guy who introduced me to the whole idea…He made a really good first impression, and then later on I visited here and I fell in love with it.”
In 2017, Vomacka was drafted 154 overall in the NHL Entry Draft, going to the Nashville Predators. He said that he loved the experience and it’s hard to put into words how it feels to be drafted, but he knows that he still has a long way to go.
“At the end of the day it doesn’t mean much, and you still gotta keep working hard. So for sure it’s nice, but it doesn’t really mean much,” Vomacka said.
From there, he played for the Lincoln Stars of the USHL in the 2017-2018 season before coming to UConn, initially backing up Junior goaltender Adam Huska.
“I think we were great friends. Obviously… there’s the competition on the ice, and that’s how it’s supposed to be,” Vomacka said. “There’s only one net and we’re two good goalies, so both of us wanted to play. But off the ice we’re just great friends, and when he was playing, I was wishing him the best and when I was playing he was doing the same for me. I was really glad he was my goalie partner this past year.”
Vomacka saw his first in-game action on Oct. 20, four games into the season against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he made 23 saves en route to a 3-1 victory. He was used sparingly throughout much of the season, but about three and a half months in things changed. Huska had been struggling, and when he gave up four goals in two periods to Boston College on Feb. 1, head coach Mike Cavanaugh gave the reigns to Vomacka. He held the Eagles scoreless, allowing the Huskies to try and climb their way out of a 4-1 hole. They made it 4-3 but ended up losing 5-3 as the result of an empty netter in the final minute of the game. If Cavanaugh had not made the switch, there might not have been a reason to empty the net in the first place.
He got the start in the next game. And the one after that. And both against Boston University the weekend after that. In the eight games left in the season following the Boston College game, he got started all but one. In those, the Huskies went 5-2, and Vomacka lowered his goals against average from an already respectable 2.94 to 2.32.
“I felt like I worked really hard, and I was just so happy when I started playing,” Vomacka said. “The guys played unreal in front of me, that month and something was absolutely amazing. I’m just thankful for the opportunity that I got and hopefully I can carry that momentum into next year.”
Now, he’s essentially a lock for the starting job next year, seeing as Huska is currently a member of the Hartford Wolfpack. At just 20 years old, he has the ability to lock down the net for the Huskies for years to come.
Jorge Eckardt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.