Junior goalie secures the net
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Starting the season, the goalie situation for the men’s hockey team was still up in the air.
In the last two seasons, men’s hockey team had back-to-back 20-wins for the first time since 1996. They reached the Hockey East semifinals last year, due in part to their defensive play and goaltending.
Junior Mike Santaguida and former Catamount Brody Hoffman, both goalies, split game time nearly down the middle last season. Santaguida played 25 games with a total of 1296 minutes and Hoffman played 22, tallying 1193 minutes.
Save percentages were nearly identical at .923 and .922 respectively. However, a starter was never established.
Now that Hoffman and two other defensemen, Nick Luukko and Mike Paliotta, have moved on to pursue professional hockey, Santaguida is now the last line of defense. The team has two other goalies on the roster — sophomore Pat Feeley and first-year Patrick Munson.
Feeley’s only NCAA game time came in 2013 in an exhibition game against the University of Ottawa. Despite having several goalie options, Santaguida is looking forward to claiming the starting position.
“I think the coaches wanted to create some competition between us to push us day-in and day-out and at times it might have gotten in the way of routine, or getting into the flow of things,” Santaguida said.
Head coach Kevin Sneddon, despite splitting the time last year and playing Hoffman at the end of the Hockey East playoffs, sees Santaguida and his two backups as a strength of the team.
“We feel very strongly about our goaltenders starting with Michael because of his experience, but our other two guys will certainly keep him honest and push him hard every day,” Sneddon said. “Our goaltending’s not just average, it’s excellent.”
Munson echoed Sneddon’s thoughts. “Competition between [goaltenders] is what every team needs,” he said. “Pushing him [Santaguida] every day will make us both better.”
Munson comes to UVM after spending two seasons in the North American Hockey League with the Fairbank Ice Dogs. He had a record of 24-8-2 over 35 games.
While Hoffman and Santaguida were statistically similar last year, Hoffman had a superior win percentage. The team played better in front of the big-bodied Hoffman than the smaller Santaguida.
Perhaps less traffic from the UVM bench to the net will result in consistent play from the Cats. Neither of the other two goalies has logged a single minute of collegiate ice time.
For the time being the job belongs to the 5-foot-9-inch 175 pound Santaguida.
In the first game of the season, Oct. 10 against the University of Minnesota, Santaguida made 24 saves in a shutout win. Santaguida, having split time with Hoffman last year, already has 44 games under his belt coming into his junior year.
“Our strength is in our experience level and having guys who have played in big games,” Sneddon said of his team. “That’s what’s going to drive our team this year.”