By Josh Sullivan, Sports Editor
Consider the goaltender. He is arguably the most important position on your hockey team. A great one can stand on his head and turn away 50 shots to steal a 1-0 win for his team, while a poor one can make bad decisions and cost his team a victory after a hard-fought, offensively driven game.
Now consider that position is wide open for the New Hampshire Wildcats. At some point this season, the job will be earned by either freshman Adam Clark, who got the start on Saturday against St. Francis Xavier, or junior Jamie Regan, who came on in relief in the third period. Each allowed one goal, each made some key saves and each will get another chance to prove themselves going forward this season.
After getting the start and playing two periods as opposed to Regan’s one, it would appear that Clark has the slight upper hand in the battle for the starting spot, however, according to senior captain Matt Willows, neither goalie has set himself apart from the other just yet.
“They’re both great goalies and they wouldn’t be here if they weren’t,” Willows said after the game. “The spot is still up for grabs.”
What is most impressive about Clark is the his size. The freshman from Sherwood Park, Alberta is a daunting 6’5 and 220 pounds, and as the St. Francis-Xavier head coach put it, stands tall in the net. He made several tough saves and, more importantly, made all of the easy saves on his way to 10 total in his first collegiate game as a starter, something easier said than done. The one goal allowed was not at the fault on any UNH player. X-Men forward Nathan Chiarlitti came across the top of the crease and slid the puck along to teammate Michael Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick held the puck just long enough to force Clark to make the first move before he slyly slid the puck through his now-open five hole and into the back of the net.
Inversely, Regan rose to the occasion as well. Though he was only relied on for around 15 minutes of play because head coach Dick Umile pulled the goalie to get his team the extra attacker with 4:46 to play, he still turned away 7 of 8 shots and the only goal allowed was the result of a Steven Kuhn deflection on a shot from inside the blue line.
“There was nothing Reags could do on that last goal,” Willows said. “I think we need to do a better job at clearing guys out in front of the net.”
Regardless of who is in the net come game time on Saturday, that player will have his hands full with a Union team returning 20 out of 27 players from last years national championship team. It’s also a team that scored 160 goals in 42 games last season. Whoever gets the nod very well may have to stand on his head to keep the Wildcats in the game.