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Paul Dainton, Alex Beaudry to face off in matchup of two of Hockey

Massachusetts hockey coach Don Cahoon made it clear who the two most significant players are on the ice in any game.

“Goaltending is the most vital position on the ice in every game that is played,” Cahoon said before Thursday practice. “Rarely can you get through a game without getting good goaltending.”

When the No. 17 Minutemen play a home-and-home this weekend with Providence – Friday in Providence and Saturday in Amherst – the two most important players on the ice will also be two of the best at their respective positions so far this year in the Hockey East.

For UMass (3-0-0, 2-0-0 HEA), Paul Dainton will be between the pipes looking to continue his strong start to the season. The junior currently ranks third in the conference in goals-against average (2.34) and save percentage (0.930) as he has led the Minutemen to their best start since 1995.

Opposing Dainton will be the difference maker on the Friars squad, according to Cahoon. Alex Beaudry joined Providence (4-1-0, 0-0-0 HEA) halfway through last season as a freshman and immediately made a difference. In his first start, he helped the Friars to a 4-2 victory over then-No. 4 Boston University and followed with a 40-save performance in a win against UMass, Providence’s only win against the Minutemen last season.

“[The Friars] have been a different team since he arrived mid-year last year,” Cahoon said of Beaudry’s arrival to Providence. “He came in January of ‘09, and I think his first game was at BU and [Providence] beat them. I was at the game and he was clearly the difference in the game.

“He has given them a confidence they haven’t had in quite awhile and he is a huge factor in their success.”

While Dainton ranks high among the goalies in the Hockey East, he still ranks below Beaudry in goals-against average and save percentage. Beaudry currently is ranked second with a 1.76 goals-against average and first with his 0.939 save percentage. Dainton ranks first in win percentage (1.000) above Beaudry’s 0.750, good for second in the conference, with his only loss coming to then-No. 7 Notre Dame.

“[Beaudry’s] ability is very similar to Paul Dainton’s. His physical makeup is similar to Paul’s; they are in many ways a lot alike,” Cahoon said comparing the two goalies. “A little different posture, a little different save selection, but they are very similar type of goaltenders.”

Dainton is no stranger to the Friars and no stranger to having success against them, with two victories last year in back-to-back games. Dainton came into the first match with Providence after fellow goaltender Dan Meyers had surrendered four scores in just over 22 minutes, and closed out the rest of the game, not giving up a goal as UMass went on to win 9-4. Dainton gave up one goal the next night as the Minutemen rolled past the Friars 5-1.

When UMass travels to Providence on Friday, Dainton also knows to be aware of the smaller rink the Friars play in. With about five fewer feet of ice on each end of the rink, it makes for a quicker game.

“It is a smaller surface than our own so there a lot of things that happen a lot quicker so you always have to be on your game because plays just develop real quick,” Dainton said.

“I just have to come prepared to make all the saves I should make and hopefully steal a couple down the way.”

With Dainton’s performances so far this year, there isn’t much of a question as to whether or not he’ll be prepared. Dainton has put a lot of time in focusing more on the mental aspect of his game with certain drills and taken a different focus in net, something that he feels has led to his early success this season.

“This year just kind of taking everything one shot at a time and doing a lot of mental work off the ice for concentration and stuff like that as opposed to more of the technical stuff which we did work on during the summer,” Dainton said.

In addition to the work Dainton has put in, Cahoon credits having another year under his belt, as part of the mix of why Dainton is playing at such a high level.

“I think that in conjunction with his maturity, he’s older; he’s wiser; he’s more schooled and that is a big part of why he is playing at a high level right now,” Cahoon said. “It takes all of the elements of athleticism, maturity, physical strength and the mental toughness, preparation and focus to constitute a great goaltender at this level. So I think it all is very significant, but it’s a little piece to the puzzle.”

Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at jlarnard@dailycollegian.com.

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