‘Dream come true’: Maple Leafs play University of Toronto G Jett Alexander in blowout win

Watch as University of Toronto goaltender Jett Alexander comes in to play the final 1:10 of the Toronto Maple Leafs' 7-1 win vs. the Montreal Canadiens.

TORONTO – The kid named Jett’s phone blew up the second he slid it off airplane mode.

If Saturday was another meaningless game for the playoff-bound, load-managing Toronto Maple Leafs, no one bothered to inform Jett Alexander, the emergency goaltender called in to support Ilya Samsonov due to cap gymnastics and have his dreams come reality.

The 23-year-old University of Toronto student is double-majoring in English and earth and environmental sciences. He is the son of a Montreal Canadiens fan. And, officially, incredibly, an NHL player.

Even if the lockdown Leafs didn’t allow a single shot on their nerve-racked amateur tryout as the final 70 seconds ticked down in a 7-1 beatdown of the hapless Habs, Alexander will always have his memories, his soon-to-be-framed No. 40 sweater, and his HockeyDB page.

The kid had to ask John Tavares to direct him to the Leafs’ stick tape stash before puck drop and had no clue he was going to play a second beyond warmup.

[brightcove videoID=6324221411112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

“What was it, 1:10 left? Jett, you’re going in. Took my hat off and hopped over the boards. Kinda blacked out, I guess,” Alexander said, smiling. “Crazy. Didn’t think as a little kid, this is how you’d get to the NHL. Nonetheless you’re here. So, pretty cool.

“A dream come true, honestly.”

His first thought when Samsonov stole his seat on the bench: “Hopefully they win the D-zone draw, then get the puck out, and then nothing comes at me.”

Nothing did.

But in hindsight Alexander got a little greedy. He kinda wanted the chance to make a save: “From the blue line maybe, with no traffic.”

Mitch Marner thought it was a wonderful, if surreal, opportunity for the sophomore: “Couple minutes. Probably felt like 10 for him.”

Added Ryan O’Reilly, who chatted Alexander up on the bench: “All the boys are pumped for him.”

[brightcove videoID=6324221944112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

The only reason the Maple Leafs felt comfortable giving Alexander his fantasy camp moment — a precedent set in January by the Oilers with University of Alberta goalie Matt Berlin — was because they had dominated the lottery-hopeful, injury-riddled Canadiens so thoroughly.

Toronto outshot its visitors 18-1 in the first period, and the big guns smelled cookie night.

John Tavares scored twice, and William Nylander once while setting a new career high in shots (10). O’Reilly and power-play quarterback Erik Gustafsson pitched in with three assists apiece. Auston Matthews went beast with four points, and Marner hung three, bringing him to 98 on his career year.

“Felt like he could’ve got to 105 tonight,” coach Sheldon Keefe said.

If the Maple Leafs scored the touchdown, bitter Montreal defenceman Chris Wideman felt throwing Alexander over the boards was excessive celebration.

“They’ll get what they deserve in a few weeks,” Wideman said of the substitution, firing a not-so-friendly prediction for the Leafs’ playoff fate.

In truth, the call to throw Alexander on the ice caught everyone on the bench by surprise, Keefe included.

[brightcove videoID=6324222640112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

“It was not my decision. Word came down to me about 30 seconds before the whistle came,” Keefe said.

Whose decision was it?

“It’s not important,” Keefe replied.

That Alexander’s appearance was a decision at all — and not a necessity — is a relief, considering Samsonov’s reaction to this play:

The netminder was slow to rise and looked to be in discomfort after jamming his left skate into the post in the second period. He skated to the bench in the two ensuing TV timeouts and had conversations with head trainer Paul Ayotte. Then he had things checked out in the intermission.

Alexander shared his reaction as the injury scare unfolded: “The first thing I said was, ‘Oh, no.’”

Samsonov downplayed the temporary tightness with trademark charm: “You know, Sammy never break. Everyone knows this. I almost broke post.”

And Alexander almost broke the Internet.

Back in the real world, the six-foot-five, 214-pound netminder is considering pursuing a pro career once he graduates in 2024. Perhaps overseas or something.

For now, though, Alexander will soak this in and respond to a few of those messages before he turns his attention to the four final exams still looming on his academic calendar.

Standing in the Toronto Maple Leafs dressing room, surrounded by national cameras and pointed microphones on a Saturday night, Alexander smiles: “Maybe I’ll start studying tomorrow.”

Fox’s Fast 5

• If this indeed was Wayne Simmonds’ final home game as a Maple Leaf, he went out like a runaway locomotive.

The 34-year-old fourth-liner does not have a contract for next season and has been limited to 18 games in this one.

Simmonds drew a penalty that led to a power-play goal and won his fight against Michael Pezzetta, triggering a rousing ovation from the Toronto faithful.

Simmonds received a second round of applause when he went after Joel Edmundson for cross-checking Michael Bunting in garbage time, and he was rewarded with the wrestling belt by his teammates post-win.

Scarborough sticks together.

“He’s grinded for everything in his career, and he definitely has the respect of the league,” Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher says.

Marner puts it another way: “He still scares the (expletive) out of people. It’s nice to have that on your team at all times . He wants all his teammates to do well, no matter his situation.”

Coach Keefe has no interest in your Simmonds last-game sentiment right now, however.

“We’re going to play in the playoffs, and Wayne’s a part of our team, so I don’t even know why I’m getting these questions,” Keefe said when the subject was raised. 

• Darryl Sittler, Borje Slaming’s friend, presented a cheque to ALS Action Canada for $558,891.12 — funds helped raised through sales of the Salming shoulder patch. Bravo.

• Cole Caufield leads the Canadiens in goals (26). He hasn’t played hockey since Jan. 19.

• Keefe on the undisclosed injury Calle Järnkrok suffered Thursday in Boston, his 10th straight game on Matthews’ wing:

“It’s been something that he’s been working through for a while, but it just kind of flared up on him. Fairly minor. He finished the game the other night. He was just a little bit more uncomfortable than you’d want him to be at this time of year.”

• You know the season is winding down with meaningless games when David Kämpf is out here attempting Michigans…

“We were loving it on the bench. I wish he pulled it off,” Marner said. “He had time. He can do it. So, it was great to see.”

(P.S. Congratulations, Mark. Helluva run.)

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.