The Massachusetts hockey team has one player wearing a jersey stitched with the letter “C” and it is worn by a player in an unlikely position.
Senior Paul Dainton is one eight goalies since the beginning of the UMass hockey program in 1909-10 to have donned the lettered outfit, starting with David Buttrick in 1917.
He is the first goalie since Brian Reagan in 1997 to be elected as captain and the honor was a surprise, even to him.
“That was not something I could even fathom happening,” Dainton said. “It’s a huge honor that the guys voted for me and the coaching staff as well and it’s still something that I’m working on each day, trying to be better at doing it.”
UMass coach Don Cahoon issued his team a questionnaire in which players were asked to put themselves in a position of captain and pick whomever they felt would be the best fit as their assistant.
Dainton voted for Danny Hobbs, who is one of three players named as assistant captains, along with T.J. Syner and Michael Marcou three of his teammates that picked him.
“I think Paul is a tremendous leader,” Syner said. “He’s a great vocal guy out there that really can respond to his teammates. I know definitely guys look up to him, his work ethic.”
“Pauly is a really good leader off the ice,” Marcou said. “He’s always doing the right thing, taking the younger guys and showing them around. On the ice, he’s always working, doing extra stuff. Guys see that and want to build off of him. See his competitiveness and how much he wants it and build off of it.”
Typically, the position of captain is left to those who play outside of the crease. Forwards and defensemen have a better opportunity to communicate with their teammates on the ice and more importantly, on the bench.
Since Dainton spends the whole game between the pipes, he finds other ways to motivate, such as in the locker room.
“Usually it’s because you’re not allowed to cross the goal-line and talk to the refs,” Dainton said. “The goalie has a specific job, where you’re on the ice for the entire game and you have to worry about stopping the puck. Between shifts, you can’t go and talk to the ref. You can’t micro-manage.”
Dainton was recently named as a Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award nominee, one of 20 on a list of collegiate hockey players who excel on and off the ice.
Cahoon has a track record for producing excellent student-athletes, having coached 73 Hockey East Academic All-Conference performers, including five Distinguished Scholars and six Academic All-Star members in his eight seasons on the Minutemen bench. Dainton is a classic example of one.
“He was a much better student than he realized. He was a much more interested student than he realized and he got into a university setting and all of the sudden, he was really stimulated by the environment and he really responded to certain classes and teachers.”
Dainton works as a teacher’s assistant for an abnormal psychology class and volunteers at Hampshire County Court, assisting inmates in decisional training, helping them readjust to life outside bars so they don’t make the same mistakes.
He is also a member of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization and his involvement in these programs is an illustration of the mentoring qualities that his teammates respond to in-between hockey and class periods.
Dainton currently ranks second all-time at UMass in career goals against average (2.70), save percentage (.908) and wins (39). In 2009-10, he played 30 games with a 3.08 GAA and a .901 save percentage.
He made 29 saves and gave up four goals in his first game at Minnesota on Oct. 8 before coming off the ice with an undisclosed injury in the Minutmen’s next game the following night.
Freshman Jeff Teglia manned the net in his place on Saturday at Boston University, shutting out the Terriers for the final two periods and overtime in a 2-2 tie. Teglia halted 33 shots in that game and could be the UMass starter for Friday’s game, when the two teams rematch at the Mullins Center.
Dainton hasn’t practiced since his injury, but he believes he will be back to full health by week’s end. For now, he is not concerned with who the starter will be when he gets back as much as he is with supporting his teammates.
“I’m not worried about coming back and playing,” Dainton said. “I’m also not worried about it if he gets a couple of games, too. We want the team to succeed this year. Having [a] presence in the dressing room, talking to the guys, keeping them motivated and accountable, I don’t have to be on the ice to do that.”
Dan Gigliotti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.