The Closer

In one sense, Cornell goalie Ben Scrivens is like a major league baseball pitcher who pitches well but whose team invariably fails to score runs — which means he comes out on the losing end of too many games.

But here’s where Scrivens differs from that type of pitcher: he wins, regardless of how many goals the Big Red score.

Through his first 13 games this season, Scrivens was 9-1-3 with a 1.38 goals-against average — which tied him for second with Quinnipiac’s Nick Pisellini both nationally and in the ECAC — and a .947 save percentage — which ranked second to Pisellini both nationally and in the ECAC.

Now, check out these 13-game team stats:

• Cornell ranks second from the bottom in the ECAC and 39th nationally in goals scored (33).

• Cornell leads the ECAC and is tied for second nationally with only 20 goals allowed.

Theoretically, a goalie in that situation might be justified in thinking if he gives up more than two goals his team is going to be in trouble.

Scrivens, a junior from Spruce Grove, Alb., feels that theory is worth less than the paper it’s printed on.

“I can’t think if I let in one now, I can’t let in another,” he said. “I can’t go in thinking ‘I need a shutout today’ or ‘I only can let in one goal.’ You’ve got to give your team the best chance to win a game.

“There’s a concerted effort by the guys in front of me. They’re looking to play defense first. A lot of our offense comes in transition. Besides, stats are misleading. We went into North Dakota (in late November) and lost our first game (7-3) and scored five goals on the weekend (Cornell won the rematch, 2-1). You’re always going to have games where a puck goes out instead of in.

“You only can control what you’re doing out there,” continued Scrivens. “I can’t control whether I’ll face 50 shots in a game or less. You’ve got to be ready for it. If I get 15 shots and let in two, then I’m not holding up my end of the bargain.”

Without question, Scrivens held up his “end of the bargain” last season.

While playing 90 percent of the team’s minutes, he was 19-12-3 with a 2.02 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage plus three shutouts. And from the second period against Quinnipiac on Nov. 3, 2007 until the first period against Niagara on Jan. 5, 2008, he had a home shutout streak of 163 minutes and 3 seconds.

Moreover, in ECAC games, his GAA was 1.88 and his save percentage was .932 which ranked second to Harvard’s Kyle Richter.

Yet when the All-ECAC teams were announced, Scrivens didn’t even receive third-team honors.

Go figure.

“Again, that stuff outside the game you can’t control,” said Scrivens. “Obviously, it would have been nice to get some recognition. But it always ends up happening when a team has success, individual accolades follow. In hindsight, I wish we would have had a better showing in the ECACs.

“I try to stay more focused in terms of wins and losses.”

Scrivens, admittedly, refused to use this perceived snub as motivation coming into the current season.

“For me, the push was more internally within the team,” he said. “I’m lucky enough because I’ve asserted myself. If I go down tomorrow, the team is confident in the other guys. We have four goalies this year (Troy Davenport, Dan DiLeo and Michael Garman besides Scrivens) and there’s competition.

“There’s no way I can take full credit for my stats last year. The credit goes to the guys in front of me sticking to the game plan.”

Scrivens’ plan coming out of Spruce Grove was noteworthy of his primary concern.

Given Cornell’s long tradition of outstanding goalies (read: Ken Dryden, Brian Hayward, David LeNeveu and David McKee), it’s reasonable to assume that would have been an attraction for Scrivens — who starred for Spruce Grove in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (the Saints’ MVP in his second season, he was 27-12-3 with a 2.43 GAA and a .921 save percentage).

Not quite.

“Once I was approached by Cornell, it was a no-brainer,” he said. “The schooling aspect was more of a sell for me, personally, than the hockey. My parents (Wayne and Dawna Scrivens) figured that was the best way to go about it. At a lot of places, you don’t quite get the education.

“Obviously, there aren’t any guarantees of ice time. But I was really lucky to get the opportunity to come here. I spent time in juniors two years before coming here. The only reason you stay away from major juniors is if you want to come to the U.S. and play hockey.

“If you’re looking to go to college,” continued Scrivens, “you’re looking for the best college available.”

Being one of the best goalies in college hockey obviously requires a specific mindset — not unlike a closer in baseball who realizes the game is on the line every time he steps on the mound.

Scrivens, who quips that he was “flat-out no good at forward” when he first started playing hockey, relishes the nature of the position.

“It’s a position where you’re the hero or the goat,” he said. “If you play well and make a big save near the end of a game, you get a lot of credit. If you let in a softie, things can change in a hurry.

“Consistency’s the big thing. If you’re a forward or a defenseman, you can get away with a bad shift. In goal, if you’re having bad games, you usually don’t last too long.

“I enjoy the pressure,” added Scrivens. “I enjoy the challenge because when you come through there’s no better feeling than that.”

Good point.

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