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Renyard Brings Good Pedigree to UMass

Head coach John Micheletto, pictured here on UMass bench in a game last season.
Head coach John Micheletto, pictured here on UMass bench in a game last season.
Matt Dewkett

The University of Massachusetts hockey program hasn't finished with a team save percentage above .900 since the 2008-09 season. It's certainly a statistic that isn't conducive to winning hockey.

Enter freshman goaltender Nic Renyard. The reigning CJHL Junior A Player of the Year, who was also named the MVP and Top Goaltender in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), is expected to be a major upgrade.

A native of Victoria, British Columbia, Renyard had a league best .924 save percentage with the Okotoks Oilers last season. His 30 wins was more than any other goaltender in the Junior A league.

"He's a goaltender with a really good pedigree. He's definitely going to make a difference," said John Micheletto who is entering his fourth season as head coach of the Minutemen.

Renyard, who will turn 21 on Dec. 18, has significant experience playing in the AJHL and BCHL. He and his coach both hope that will help in his transition to the college game.

"It will be a big difference in reading plays and seeing where shots are coming from. Players [at this level] have the ability to hide the release better," said Renyard. who intends to major in kinesiology.

"The exciting part for him is the challenge of a new level and trying to figure out the differences in the college game from the junior game, especially in Hockey East," Micheletto explained.

Renyard believes his added experience will certainly give him a leg up on some other freshmen who might be a year to three years younger with less junior experience.

"It will help. There's more pressure. College is a big life experience. I'm more ready now than if I was 18 or 19," Renyard said.

Preparing for his first year of college hockey involved a weekly routine this summer that included two to three days on the ice and five days in the gym.

"I knew [freshman year] was going to be a very big year. I worked five days a week in the gym and two to three on the ice with my personal goalie coach. I worked a lot on bad angle plays and going post-to-post," explained Renyard.

Putting in that extra commitment to get better is what Renyard credited with his terrific final year of junior hockey that earned him a scholarship opportunity at UMass.

"I worked very hard the summer before. I put in that extra work and preparation time. I knew it was my last shot. My coach in Okotoks had confidence in me and gave me an opportunity to play a lot. I strive under the pressure," said Renyard.

When asked why he chose UMass, Renyard was quick to the point. "The coaches are great people. Hockey East is a good league. It was an opportunity to compete for minutes and succeed right away."

Renyard, an undersized goaltender in this modern era of hockey, standing just under six-feet tall, relies on his quickness and and smarts in the crease.

"I'm an average, small-sized goalie," explained Renyard. "I think I compete hard, read the game well and have quickness."

Micheletto is confident that Renyard and an improved Henry Dill can each give his team a shot to win on any given night.

"We're excited about the progress Henry made in terms of the strength and conditioning part this summer. He looks significantly improved. His natural skill set has allowed to be more on display in the first couple of practices we've had just with that additional power," said Micheletto of his sophomore.

As is often the case when two goaltenders are competing for minutes, they will push each other to be even better.

"The competitiveness between those two guys is going to drive the performance of that position to better statistical numbers," said Micheletto.

Renyard is anxious for his teammates and him to take the ice for the first time in a game situation this Saturday against Dalhousie.

"I'm excited to play against the best in college hockey. We look really good so far. We're a young team that's really excited."

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