The Manhattanville Valiants rode Player of the Year goaltender Andrew Gallant all the way to the NCAA semifinal last year, only to drop a 3-2 decision to Middlebury. But even making it as one of the final four teams in the country was a great accomplishment and has set the expectations high for this yearâ€™s team.
â€œIt was a great experience for us,â€ said coach Keith Levinthal. â€œIt was really well run and a great place to have it. For our program, it was a step that we needed to get to. It is now the measuring stick for all Manhattanville teams, whether fair or unfair. Each team is now judged by that, at least for the next few years.â€
But now Andrew Gallant is gone, along with the Valiants top two scorers — Chris Mills and Justin Rohr — from last season and question marks remain about who is going to step into the big goaltender skates that remain.
â€œTo expect someone to come in and replace him is unfair,â€ said Levinthal.
â€œSomeone like Andrew Gallant doesnâ€™t come around all that often. This year, we literally have four guys that could potentially start a game here. It is a wide open job.â€
Competing to be the starting netminder this season are a senior, a sophomore, and two freshmen. The name most familiar to fans, and the only one to have seen any collegiate game time last season, is senior Paul Reimer (1.80, .905). Reimer might have the inside track as the heir apparent to Gallant, but it certainly is not a done deal.
â€œIt is kind of a feeling out process,â€ said Levinthal. â€œPaul Reimer has been here for four years now, and we know him better than the other guys. But we donâ€™t know the answer at this point. It has been a while since we have gone into a year without knowing what our goaltender is going to be like.â€
Joining the two new goaltenders this season are eight other freshmen. However, coach Levinthal is reluctant to single any one of them out as a player to watch because in his words â€œthey havenâ€™t done anything yet at this level.â€
Unlike last season, where the starting lines were pretty well set in stone and loaded with veterans, the air around Playland Ice Arena is ripe with competition this year as everyone is competing to win a spot on the line chart for each game.
â€œOne of our big fears about this upcoming season is that we need competition for all positions this year,â€ said Levinthal. â€œWe have to ensure that this group doesnâ€™t believe that they could just show up this fall and be successful because we won 21 games last year. We wanted to get back to everyone fighting for a job.â€