Thursday, November 8, 2012

Goaltending Battles in Hockey East

Goaltending battles are always an interesting and hot topic in hockey in general, but especially in college hockey due to players graduating or leaving early. Several teams in Hockey East have solidified their goaltending positions while others are still working their goaltending issues out. Some teams will keep a platoon all season long, while other teams will see one goaltender emerge as the number one.

Boston College - Senior Parker Milner was the known commodity coming into the season, after having led the Eagles to the Hockey East and NCAA Championship a year ago. Milner struggled during the first half a year ago, but was stellar down the stretch. His strong play has continued this season.

Boston University - Kieran Milan graduated and his backup Grant Rollheiser also graduated. That left two highly touted recruits to fill their shoes. Sean Maguire came in as a Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick while Matt O'Connor came in after a strong year in the USHL. Maguire has struggled in the early going of the year while O'Connor has flourished. As of now, it looks like O'Connor is the number one, but expect BU coach Jack Parker to not give up on Maguire yet.

Maine - Junior Dan Sullivan came in to the year in the starting position after an improved sophomore campaign. The York, PA native looked solid in a big showdown against Notre Dame, stopping 33 of 34 shots on goal in a 1-0 loss. Since then, he has lost some confidence. Freshman Matt Morris started in net against Army, the only win of the year for the Black Bears. Junior Martin Ouellette looked sharp in a losing effort against BC last Friday. This goaltending carousel is probably the toughest to decipher. Ouellette has the most upside, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Merrimack - Vancouver Canucks prospect and school record holder Joe Cannata graduated last spring, leaving a huge void in net for the Warriors. Junior Sam Marotta was immense in an opening night road upset win over Union and has gotten the job done since then. Newcomer Rasmus Tirronen struggled in his first two collegiate starts but has been much better since. This platoon will last for at least another month before Mark Dennehy decides on a number one or continues the rotation.

New Hampshire - Sophomore Casey DeSmith came to camp this fall as the number one goaltender after unseating senior Matt DiGirolamo last season. Jeff Wyer is a capable back up who was limited last season due to injuries. Dick Umile will probably give Wyer some opportunities in non-conference tilts in the next month or so, but DeSmith has earned the job in Durham.

Northeastern - The Huskies have another interesting goaltending situation. Senior Chris Rawlings has been inconsistent ever since arriving on campus. Rawlings looks great at times, but then will let in a few soft goals to cost the team. Bryan Mountain came in relief of Rawlings against UNH then got the start the next night, shutting out UNH in a 0-0 tie. Neither goaltender has bad numbers statistically, but both seem inclined to letting in soft goals. Look for NU coach Jim Madigan to keep a rotation going for a few weeks before settling back on a number one.

UMass-Amherst - Kevin Boyle appears to have won the number one job in Amherst over Steve Mastalerz and Jeff Teglia. Boyle has a 1.99 GAA and a .932 save percentage through four starts while Mastalerz has struggled in two losing efforts.

UMass-Lowell - Junior Doug Carr is the number one goaltender in the mill city, but freshman Connor Hellebuyck will get some starts, as evidenced by UML coach Norm Bazin giving him the nod in a game at Denver. Expect Carr to get the huge majority of the starts, but Bazin wants to keep him fresh come March, so Hellebuyck will get a few starts here an there.

Providence - Freshman Jon Gillies, a Calgary Flames draft pick, is the clear number one goaltender for Nate Leaman's squad. He was recruited late to replace the graduated Alex Beaudry. Gillies has stellar numbers and has played all but 20 minutes of mop up duty in a blowout victory over Sacred Heart.

Vermont - Freshman Brody Hoffman has played every minute so far, playing well with a 2.13 GAA and a .929 save percentage. Based on this, it is easy to see why UVM coach Kevin Sneddon has given him the number one. Fellow freshman Billy Faust could possibly be given a chance to compete for the job at some point.