Coaches say it over and over, time and time again. Goaltending is the most important position in hockey. So it should come as no surprise that the top three goaltenders in terms of save percentage have all led their respective teams to the Hockey East semifinals.
Boston College junior Thatcher Demko (.938), UMass Lowell senior Kevin Boyle (.934) and Providence junior Nick Ellis (.934) have all carried the bulk of the load between the pipes as their teams consistently were among the nation's elite all season.
The one goaltender not in the top three, Northeastern freshman Ryan Ruck, ranked eighth during the entire regular season with a .915 save percentage, but he's third with a .931 save percentage since Dec. 19th. That coincides with the beginning of the Huskies' current run.
"He's been fabulous. Here's a kid who got off to a 0-9-1 start with his own record, not winning, our team struggling and I'm going to him repeatedly and we're using him as the guy. He just battled through it and fought through the adversity," said Northeastern coach Jim Madigan of his rookie from Coto de Caza, Calif.
"He's been a huge part of our turnaround, as any goaltender is for any good team, but even more so with him because of where we had to come from," Madigan added.
Demko, who will be at the opposite end opposing Ruck in Friday's second semifinal, came into the season as a favorite to win the Mike Richter Award as college hockey's top goaltender. The San Diego, Calif. native hasn't disappointed.
A second round pick of the Vancouver Canucks in the 2014 NHL Draft, Demko has posted 10 shutouts on the year after just three in his first two seasons at The Heights. Demko has it all in terms of what NHL teams are looking for in a goaltender. He's big, athletic and fundamentally sound.
As hyped as Demko has been for sometime, Boyle is somewhat at the other end of the spectrum. He played two seasons for UMass Amherst before being cut by recently fired John Micheletto. UMass Lowell coach Norm Bazin saw something in the Manalapan, NJ native and offered him a spot on the team. After sitting out the 2013-14 season, Boyle has emerged as the go-to man in net for the River Hawks, a team looking for a third Lamoriello Trophy in four seasons.
Boyle set the program record for shutouts in a season with seven after blanking Boston University, 5-0, in game two of the Hockey East quarterfinals last Saturday.
In the first semifinal, Providence will counter with Ellis, a junior from Millersville, Md., who sat behind All-American Jon Gillies for his first two seasons. Ellis doesn't have the prototypical size of a modern era goaltender, but he covers a lot of the net, tracks pucks well and has cat-like reflexes.
Ellis made 45 saves on 46 shots in the Friars' sweep of Merrimack in the quarterfinals.
|Hometown||Millersville, Md.||Manalapan, NJ||San Diego, Calif.||Coto de Caza, Calif.|
|Previous Team||Des Moines (USHL)||UMass Amherst||U.S. NTDP U-18||Des Moines (USHL)|
|NHL Rights||Free Agent||Free Agent||VAN (2014, 2nd Rd.)||Free Agent|
|Midget Team||Team Maryland||NJ Rockets||California Titans||LA Selects|