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Ten to watch: Picking college hockey’s top goalies for 2012-13

The NHL may be locked out — again — but the 2012-13 NCAA campaign is about to get under way. Paramount to any team’s chances of hoisting the Division I championship trophy in Pittsburgh in April will be the play it gets between the pipes between now and then.

Gone are the likes of Aaron Dell, Connor Knapp, Shawn Hunwick, Shane Madolora, Taylor Nelson, Kent Patterson, and Kenny Reiter. So here’s a look at some of the top returning goaltenders in college hockey this winter, as viewed by a number of college coaches and professional scouts.

No. 10: Garrett Bartus, Connecticut

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Connecticut’s Garrett Bartus made 1,179 saves last season (photo: Steve Slade/UConn Athletics).

Bartus went 16-19-4 with a 2.55 goals against average and a .923 save percentage in 39 games a year ago as a junior, but was also among the national leaders with a career-high 1,179 saves.

A four-time choice as Atlantic Hockey goalie of the week, he also posted five shutouts last season and made 40 or more saves on a half-dozen occasions for the Huskies.

In conference play, the Illinois native finished 15-14-2 in 32 contests and had 46 stops in UConn’s playoff win at eventual conference champion and NCAA tournament participant Air Force.

No. 9: Branden Komm, Bentley

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Bentley’s Branden Komm stopped 40 shots or more six times last season (photo: Daryl Marshke).

Komm finished among the top 25 in the nation in goals against average (2.41) as a sophomore and posted a 16-14-7 mark in 38 games as the Falcons’ workhorse. He also was one of the national leaders in minutes played (2,237), and posted six outings where he stopped 40 or more shots.

His best performance may have come in an Atlantic Hockey playoff matchup with perennial frontrunner Rochester Institute of Technology, where he turned aside 58 shots despite taking the loss.

The Williamsville, N.Y., native also earned third-team all-conference honors behind a pair of upperclassmen in Madolora (RIT) and Chris Noonan (Niagara).

No. 8: Kevin Kapalka, Lake Superior State

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Lake Superior State’s Kevin Kapalka made 30 saves or more 16 times last season (photo: Rachel Lewis).

The junior from Mississauga, Ontario, went 17-14-5 a year ago (2.67, .916) and again got the Lakers to the second round of the CCHA playoffs, where they fell to eventual champion Western Michigan.

He made 30 or more saves in a game 16 times, including a shutout against Alaska in the first round of the CCHAs, and recorded 40 or more stops on three occasions. He also won three of four contests against conference semifinalist and regular NCAA tournament participant Miami.

In two years in Sault Ste. Marie he has gone 29-26-13 and will be one of the top returning goaltenders in the CCHA for its final campaign.

No. 7: Frank Slubowski, Western Michigan

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Frank Slubowski backstopped Western Michigan to the CCHA playoff championship last season (photo: Rachel Lewis).

The British Columbia native burst onto the college scene as a freshman by recording three wins and a tie in his first four outings, including a shutout. He ended his rookie session by winning five of his last six games, including a 27-save effort in the CCHA championship game that earned him MVP honors as the Broncos topped Michigan.

Western Michigan was edged by North Dakota in its NCAA West Regional opener despite Slubowski’s 25 stops. He still finished 17-11-4 overall (2.03, .911) with three shutouts in 32 appearances, and also garnered both CCHA all-rookie team and CCHA all-tournament team recognition.

No. 6: Jason Torf, Air Force

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Jason Torf shut out Rochester Institute of Technology for the Atlantic Hockey playoff title last season (photo: Omar Phillips).

Like Denver’s Sam Brittain, Torf didn’t play as much last year as he did in 2010-11, thanks to a groin injury, and went 8-5-2 with a 1.73 goals against average and five shutouts in 19 outings.

He guided the Falcons to a shutout win over RIT in the Atlantic Hockey championship game for the second straight spring, making 34 saves, before holding eventual national champion Boston College to two goals in the NCAA Northeast Regional.

“Torf is a little unorthodox, but he’s come up big in big games,” an opposing coach said.

In two seasons, the California native has gone 24-14-5 with seven shutouts.

No. 5: Sam Brittain, Denver

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Sam Brittain played in just 12 games last season because of a knee injury (photo: Michelle Bishop).

Limited by a preseason knee injury last fall, the Calgary, Alberta, native and 2010 Florida Panthers draft choice played in just 12 games, going 8-4 (2.36, .932) as Denver fell in the first round of the NCAA tournament to eventual national finalist Ferris State.

His comeback came on the heels of a dynamic rookie season where he finished 19-9-5 in 33 outings with a 2.28 GAA and led the Pioneers to an NCAA tournament victory over Western Michigan.

Despite the injury, he’s still considered a solid pro prospect and is 27-13-5 for the Pioneers in his career.

No. 4: Doug Carr, Massachusetts-Lowell

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Doug Carr won 22 games as a sophomore for Massachusetts-Lowell (photo: Shelley M. Szwast).

The River Hawks made it to the NCAAs last year for the first time in 16 seasons and nearly got into their first Frozen Four. A big reason for that was sophomore netminder Carr, who went 22-10-1 in 33 contests (2.13, .928) with four shutouts.

“The most important stat for any goalie is wins, and [BC's Parker] Milner and Carr both put up some gaudy numbers,” an opposing coach said.

A 2012 Hockey East all-star, Carr made 65 saves at the NCAA East Regional, topping Miami before falling to Union in a game that kept Lowell from punching its ticket to Tampa.

No. 3: Andy Iles, Cornell

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Andy Iles had six shutouts last season for Cornell (photo: Melissa Wade).

Iles went 19-9-7 as a second-year man (2.12, .919), helping Cornell to the ECAC Hockey semifinals and then into the national tournament with a shutout over Colgate in the consolation game, his sixth whitewash of the winter.

Ithaca’s hometown hero, a second-team all-ECAC Hockey choice, then backstopped the Big Red past Michigan at the NCAA Midwest Regional, making 31 saves, before a loss to Ferris State ended Cornell’s campaign one game short of its first Frozen Four since 2003. A three-time ECAC goalie of the week last season, Iles has gone 27-16-9 in his career to date.

No. 2: Troy Grosenick, Union

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Union’s Troy Grosenick was one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award last season (photo: Melissa Wade).

Grosenick stepped into a tough situation in Schenectady as a sophomore, with just three games of college experience to his credit, and then did predecessor Keith Kinkaid one step better.

The Wisconsin native not only led the Dutchmen back to the ECAC Hockey championship and the NCAA tournament, but their first-ever Frozen Four, where they fell to Ferris State in the semifinals.

“He inherited a tough job,” an NHL scout said. “He had a lot of pressure and responded well.”

The ECAC goaltender of the year went 22-6-3 overall in 34 outings, and was second in the nation with a 1.65 goals against average.

No. 1: Parker Milner, Boston College

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Parker Milner won his last 19 games of the season to help Boston College to the 2012 national championship (photo: Melissa Wade).

Banished to the bench in January last season, the Pittsburgh native rebounded quite nicely.

“[Milner] won the national championship,” an opposing coach said.

Indeed. Milner actually won his last 19 games for the Eagles, had five shutouts in his last dozen outings, gave up just two goals in the NCAA tournament and backstopped BC to its third national title in five years while also earning Frozen Four MVP accolades.

Not bad for his first year as a No. 1 starter. The undrafted Milner ultimately finished 29-5 (1.66, .937) and led all Division I goaltenders in victories and winning percentage (.853).


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  • bronxbomberz41

    I thought there was a slight chance we’d see Casey DeSmith for UNH on here. After DiGirolamo stunk it up for the first half of the season, DeSmith came in (was actually 3rd string) and provided some excellent goalie play, and was the only reason UNH won some of their games in the second half. Then again…they did feature DiGi as their number one goalie to watch last year and he was awful. Curse of the USCHO feature for Milner maybe?

    • Joseph Crowley

      The rest of Hockey east can only hope for that, bronx.

  • lmg6841

    As a Tiger I really hate Jason Torf. Dude is a brick wall and plays great at big games.

  • bob from maine

    no way any goalie does a fill-in/follow-up like grosenick did after kinkaid left – i think he clearly played better than milner did last year

    • Joseph Crowley

      Parker Millner was the biggest reason Boston College did not lose a game last year after winning the Beanpot. As a BU alum and HE fan, I watched too many games where BC seemed to be sleepwalking or bottled up offensively, while Millner made a bunch of tough saves. BC would then pounce on a mistake and score a back-breaker. Grosenick was also awesome last year, but to say he was clearly better than Millner for the last three months of the season does not match what occurring on the ice.

      Both carried their talented teams to league regular season and playoff championships, along with a Frozen Four appearance.

  • scpa0305

    Haha these goalies are all good… but I find it funny no other WCHA goalies are even mentioned other than Brittain. What a joke.

    • http://www.facebook.com/roman.uschak Roman Uschak

      No bias against the WCHA – the story was about returning goaltenders. The league lost three very good netminders in Dell, Patterson and Reiter, who would have all merited strong consideration for this list if they were coming back this fall.

    • Leggs2

      Only “a joke” for folks like yourself with WCHA blinders on.
      Just like your “analysis” of top defensemen.

  • scottengmann

    So apparently there are no other college goalies west of Michigan?? WCHA not in college hockey anymore?? What a joke!

    • Joseph Crowley

      Checking my map, Colorado is west of Michigan. Denver and Air Force are in Colorado.

      AHA has three goaltenders in this preseason list, Hockey East has two, but I cannot think of anyone missing from the preseason list. After about 10 games, we might be able to add a freshman goaltender or two, while dropping someone on this list.

    • bronxbomberz41

      Also these are “some of the top” and they are 10 to watch, not the 10 best goalies period. Milner is probably one of the best out there heading into this year.

  • samboni

    Three of the top ten returning goalies are from the weakest league in the nation? Really? Seriously?

    • http://www.facebook.com/roman.uschak Roman Uschak

      Hey, why not? And as it says above “as viewed by a number of college coaches and professional scouts.”

  • Michael

    No Dan Sullivan on here? The kid was a rock for Maine towards the end of the season and if these are goalies to watch he’s gotta get in over some of these no name conference goaltenders.

    • http://www.facebook.com/roman.uschak Roman Uschak

      I strongly considered him, personally – if this was a dozen goalies to watch, he’d have been in there

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