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NCAA Tournament: Goaltending is the name of the game

Providence sophomore goaltender Jon Gillies
Providence sophomore goaltender Jon Gillies
Matt Dewkett

Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy has said "The name hockey should be changed to goalie" on more than one occasion in post game press conferences over the past few years.

The ninth year bench boss of the Warriors is correct when he alludes to the importance of the position in the sport of hockey. This year's NCAA Tournament is perfect proof of that.

Four of the top five goaltenders, going by save percentage rankings, are in the NCAA Tournament. Expanding out further, half of the starting goaltenders in the field rank in the top 13 nationally while 12 are in the top 24.

St. Cloud State goaltender Ryan Faragher has a .906 save percentage, worst of any starting goaltender in the tournament. Just a decade or so ago, a .906 save percentage would be nothing to be frowned upon, but now the norm is above .920.

All eight goaltenders whose teams made the Hockey East quarterfinals had at least a .922 save percentage.

For further proof of how important goaltending has become in the sport, look no further than the save percentages of the four goaltenders who led their teams to tournament championships in Hockey East, NCHC, ECAC and Big Ten.

.943, .932, .931 and .930. Ranks first, fourth, fifth and seventh nationally.

From here on out, a loss ends your season. Each and every goal for and against matters, leading to another one of Dennehy's favorite anecdotes. "[The goaltender] doesn't have to make all the saves, just the game-winning one."

Nat'l Rank Player School Year W-L-T GAA Sv. Pct. SO
1 Connor Hellebuyck UMass Lowell Soph. 17-8-2 1.73 .943 6
2 Adam Wilcox Minnesota Soph. 23-5-6 1.91 .933 3
4 Sam Brittain Denver Sr. 19-3-6 2.11 .933 5
5 Colin Stevens Union Jr. 24-4-2 1.96 .932 6
7 Joel Rumpel Wisconsin Jr. 21-5-1 2.03 .930 2
10 Jon Gillies Providence Soph. 18-8-1 2.20 .929 3
11 Brody Hoffman Vermont Soph. 10-7-1 2.01 .927 0
13 C.J. Motte Ferris State Jr. 27-8-3 2.25 .926 3
17 Steven Summerhays Notre Dame Sr. 21-13-2 2.00 .925 7
19 Cole Huggins Minnesota State Fr. 21.7-1 1.91 .924 6
21 Zane Gothberg North Dakota Soph. 18-9-3 2.05 .923 3
24 Thatcher Demko Boston College Fr. 14-4-3 2.13 .921 2
33 Charlie Finn Colgate Fr. 16-7-4 2.40 .916 1
39 Michael Garteig Quinnipiac Soph. 24-9-6 1.989 .912 6
54 Ryan Faragher St. Cloud Soph. 19-8-6 2.76 .906 1
-- Dalton Izyk Robert Morris Fr. 5-1-0 2.73 .922 1

Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.