For most of the past three hockey seasons, consistency in goal has been an issue for UNO.
And one way coach Dean Blais wants to address that is to stay consistent behind the bench.
So, even though junior Ryan Massa proverbially “stood on his head” while turning aside 28 of 30 shots in Saturday's victory over North Dakota, freshman Kirk Thompson was back in goal Sunday when the teams completed the series.
“Until someone really, really feels comfortable, we're going to be careful about having them play back to back,” Blais said. “Our goaltending has been inconsistent, so we don't want to be inconsistent. We had one (Massa) one night and one (Thompson) the other and won two in Denver (the previous weekend), so why change the next week?”
Massa, who had strong streaks as a freshman and then was pulled out of a redshirt season late in his sophomore year and struggled, had a .757 save percentage and 4.64 goals-against average through two starts this season. But he has since stopped 61 of 65 shots (.939 save percentage) while winning his past two starts and shrinking his GAA to 3.28.
Thompson started the season 2-0 with a 1.50 GAA and .946 save percentage, but is now 3-2 with a 3.12 GAA and .881 save percentage. He was pulled from Sunday's game after allowing two goals on 10 shots and replaced by freshman Reed Peters, who made his collegiate debut. Massa was a healthy scratch.
“Kirk had been sick during the week and thought he could overcome it,” Blais said. “With forwards or defensemen, maybe it's a little easier to overcome being sick — but maybe it's another thing with the goaltender because of the concentration that's involved. Sometimes you play better when you're sick, though, and he thought he could play in spite of it.”
Former goalie John Faulkner had a strong sophomore season for the Mavs, earning second-team All-CCHA honors, but was up-and-down as a junior when he split time with Massa. Faulkner was one of the hottest goalies in the country early last season, but couldn't keep up the pace in the second half of the season — after touted goalie recruit Anthony Stolarz left the program.
UNO has been looking for a solution since.
This year, UNO is 42nd among 59 teams nationally in allowing 3.3 goals per game. Among goalies who have played at least four games, Thompson is 63rd in save percentage, while Massa is 67th. They rank 54th and 58th in GAA.
“There will be a time when one goalie gets in the zone and really takes over,” Blais said. “We need good goaltending. We can't be guessing which one is going to play well.”
» NOTES: Blais said defenseman Jaycob Megna (upper body) is still questionable for this weekend after skating in an orange (no-contact) jersey in practice Wednesday. … Defenseman Matt Youso has been slowed by illness, leaving UNO with five healthy defensemen. Blais said it's possible a forward could play on the blue line, with Alex Simonson the most likely candidate, or that UNO would just use five defensemen and double-shift certain players.