Monday, November 14, 2011

Goaltending Hit and Miss in WCHA

Goaltending is Boon for Some, Bust for More

It really is no secret if you read our columns, we put emphasis on the goaltender position. It is the great equalizer, or downfall, in college hockey. An otherwise really good team can look terrible in the standings and an average team can go far in the postseason all depending on their goaltending.

To cut the chase, so far we have really blown our pre-season prediction. Our #1, Colorado College, goaltender Joe Howe has not looked like two-thirds the goalie has was last season. He has struggled mightily at times leading now to talk of a goalie controversy in Colorado Springs. But the season is still young, just ask Minnesota – Duluth.

The Bulldogs, who looked like a rudderless ship until Kenny Reiter took control of the wheel, have surged after a slow start. The team has an eight game unbeaten streak (6-0-2) including shutouts in three of the last five games. The only goaltender in those games, Reiter, the same guy who had to battle to get his saves percentage above 0.900 after the team’s 1-3-0 start.

The Gophers really can’t complain, or seriously say that they expected, what Kent Patterson has done in the nets. Patterson has five shutouts while going 10-2-0 for UMTC. The Gopher’s scoring has been great and abundant, buoyed by 15 goals in two games against Sacred Heart, but the real story of success lies between the pipes at UMTC.

CC isn’t the only team not getting what they expected from their goalie play. Coming into the season, one thing that Saint Cloud knew that they could not lose is Mike Lee, their only goalie with experience behind now graduated Dan Dunn. And here it is, SCSU now has to rely on a senior who has never played a minute in a college game that counts and two freshmen as Lee is out for the season after undergoing knee surgery. A Huskies season with some, albeit limited, promise of competing has turned into an all out fight for home ice for the first round playoffs.

Yet another story of goalie trial by fire is taking place in Denver. Sam Brittain last year made Denver into a real force backing up all the Pioneers scoring with good goaltending. A knee in Denver’s last game in the 2010-11 season forced Brittain to have surgery and will keep him out until at least mid-January. All coach George Gwozdecky asked is that backup Adam Murray keep the Pioneers in the hunt while Brittain heals. Not going as planned as Denver has used freshman Juho Olkinuora in relief of Murray on multiple occasions, because really, he couldn’t have been any worse than the starter…but he was. It got so bad at Michigan Tech that Gwozdecky was compelled to try no goalie.

In the meantime, while Denver waits for their goalie to come back from injury while showing up rival CC’s Howe in a game last Saturday, 5-4. The place holder beat the expected league #1...go figure.

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