But let’s rewind a little bit.
Craig grew up in small town Ennismore, Ontario, located outside of the city of Peterborough, and just under a two hour drive northeast of Toronto. He first tried out the goaltender position around the age of six or seven.
“It was my turn for rotation (to try out being a goalie), and the funny thing was that they only had road hockey pads to play with,” said Craig. “Even though the shots weren’t that hard as a 6- or 7-year-old kid, I went out there and I ended up playing and having a blast and I really loved it. When I got off the ice though, my legs were all bruised up and my hand was bruised because there’s like no protection with that kind of gear. So my parents are looking at me and I’m basically black and blue, but ever since that day I just wanted to be a goalie and I just fell in love with it.”
The 6-foot-2 netminder grew up playing AAA for the Petersborough Petes. Craig actually got cut the first year he tried out for the team and learned about all the hard work and training that it takes to get to the next level of hockey. He didn’t get discouraged though and kept at it and eventually then made the team.
He went on to play for the Central Ontario Wolves in 2018-2019 and then ventured into junior hockey the next year to suit up for the Whitby Fury of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
“It was definitely a wake up call,” he said. “Being that young, our whole team was young, we had a rough year and we were the youngest team in the league. We had the odds against us but it was a great learning experience for me just to understand that there are going to be ups and downs in a season.”
After that first year with the Fury, the team was relocated and rebranded to become the Haliburton County Huskies. He wound up finding Ryan Leonard, the head coach of the Renfew Wolves of the Central Canada Hockey League, and ended up joining their squad. Because of the pandemic, the team wasn’t able to have a normal season but they still played a couple of games since they did a sort of ‘bubble’ with the Pembroke Lumber Kings and got to play them a handful of times. They also got to compete in a few matches against the Smiths Falls Bears during that year.
Once things started to resume back to normal after the pandemic, Craig had a fantastic season in 2021-22 with the Wolves. He posted a .928 save percentage over 46 games and had a 2.39 goals against average. The year was great for the netminder, but with pandemic border restrictions still in place, he made the decision to move to the United States to play in the NAHL to get more exposure to NCAA Division I programs and coaches. He was then subsequently drafted to the New Mexico Ice Wolves that summer.
During his time with the Ice Wolves, Craig posted a .906 save percentage over 29 contests. The University of Nebraska-Omaha coaching staff started calling and asking about Craig late in the season.
“My coaches were telling me that UNO was interested and that they wanted to evaluate me as a person first before they evaluated me as a player,” he said.
Craig first talked on the phone with Bennett Hambrook, who is the Director of Player Development for the Mavericks. He then eventually met the entire coaching staff over Zoom.
“It was kind of funny because we had a Zoom call at about three o’clock, and then around 9 o’clock at night the same day, Coach [Mike] Gabinet reached out to me and asked if I could FaceTime and that’s when he offered me a position on the team,” he added. “It was pretty exciting because my mom was getting ready to go to bed and she heard the offer and started jumping up and down and was really excited. So it was a great day when they did end up offering.”
Nebraska-Omaha retains goaltender Simon Latkoczy from last year, who will likely be their starter in 2023-24, and will add in Will Craig from the NAHL and are also bringing in transfer Seth Eisele from Lake Superior State.
Craig will join the Mavericks squad for the upcoming 2023-24 season since he does not have any more junior eligibility left.