Albany Regional Features Steller Goaltenders

(above) New Hampshire Senior goaltender Brian Foster

From: Seacoast Online
by Mike Zhe

Maybe it's not a group of death out in Albany, N.Y., this weekend. But you could easily call it a group of goalies.

In Cornell senior Ben Scrivens, Denver junior Marc Cheverie and RIT senior Jared DeMichiel, the Division I hockey tournament's East Regional features three of the top seven in goals-against average in Division I, and three of the top nine in save percentage.

The one goalie from the quartet who isn't near the top of those rankings — University of New Hampshire senior Brian Foster — was still a first-team All-Star in Hockey East.

Of course, with a big, red, first-round roadblock in Cornell (21-8-4) starting them in the face, the Wildcats (17-13-7) aren't spending a lot of time thinking about Denver and RIT these days. It's Cornell and Scrivens, and whether Foster can stay hot, match his counterpart and give the 'Cats a chance to win.

"I think they're the two best goalies in the East, to be honest with you," said UNH coach Dick Umile. "I think it'll be a good match-up."

Foster has won back his confidence and improved his numbers by rebounding from an ugly first month of the season, one that mirrored his team's.

After a 6-3 loss at UMass-Lowell on Nov. 8, Foster owned a 4.19 goals-against average and .871 save percentage. Since then, those two numbers have gone steadily down and up, respectively.

After stopping 105 of 111 shots in a Hockey East quarterfinals series loss to Vermont — 74 of 76 in the pair of 1-0 losses that closed the series — he checks in at a respectable 2.95 and .910.

"He's a special goaltender," said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon, whose team will play Wisconsin in its NCAA first-round game Friday in St. Paul, Minn. "He had my vote for All-League and he certainly played that way this weekend."

One of three New Hampshire natives on the team, Foster ranks among the Division 1 leaders in just one goaltending category — minutes played. Handed the job prior to 2008-09, after Kevin Regan wrapped up his decorated career, he's enjoyed the luxury — or curse — of never being pushed. The two other goalies in the program these past two years, sophomores Matt DiGirolamo and Tyler Scott, have played a grand total of 312 minutes.

Scrivens' season has been steadier. He leads Division I in GAA (1.78), save percentage (.937) and shutouts (seven), and presents a formidable last line of defense on a Cornell team that's made good defense a trademark.

"All our lines have to be ready to play," said right wing Bobby Butler, UNH's leading scorer. "We've got to pepper him with shots. ... He's playing very well. We've just got to crack him once and go from there and keep the puck out of our net."

Scrivens isn't Superman. He was yanked in a 5-3 loss to Princeton on Feb. 6 after allowing four goals in 27 minutes. But he's had many, many more good nights than bad ones, including in the ECAC Hockey tournament, when he let in just one goal in four games and made 32 saves in a 3-0 win over Union in the championship.

Of course, UNH knows all about facing touted Cornell goalies in the NCAAs. Flash back seven years to the Frozen Four in Buffalo, N.Y., and there was Cornell senior David LeNeveu — a Hobey Baker finalist that year — getting outdueled by Mike Ayers in a 3-2 classic that sent the 'Cats on to the national championship game.

Now they face Scrivens.

"I think they have the best goaltender in the country," Union coach Nate Leaman said after Saturday's ECAC final. "I've seen (David) McKee and I've seen LeNeveu and I believe he's better than both those guys."

Friday's early game in Albany will pit top-seeded Denver (27-9-4) against underdog RIT (26-11-1), the regular-season and tournament champion in Atlantic Hockey. If the fourth-seeded Tigers are to advance, they'll likely need a huge game from DeMichiel, whose 25 wins are the most in Division I.

Like Scrivens, Denver goalie Cheverie is a Hobey Baker top-10 finalist, with a 24-5-3 record, 2.08 GAA and .932 save percentage. Like Foster, his professional rights are owned by the Florida Panthers. He was a seventh-round draft pick in 2006, while Foster was chosen in the fifth round one summer earlier.

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