The competition between the pipes is heating up once again for the Massachusetts hockey team, but this time it’s a two-way competition between Kevin Boyle and Steve Mastalerz.
It looked like Boyle may have wrapped up that title midway through the first half of the season with 10 straight starts, which kicked off with a 3-1 win over Vermont on Nov. 20, 2012. But 10 games later, he struggled in a 5-4 loss against Providence College on Jan. 11.
The following day, UMass coach John Micheletto switched things up and started Mastalerz, who had not played since Nov. 18, 2012, due to a knee injury.
Although the Minutemen (8-11-2, 5-8-1 Hockey East Association) lost the game, 2-0, against the Friars, Mastalerz came up with 22 saves. He followed that performance with 21 saves in a 5-2 upset win Friday over Boston College, which was ranked No. 2 at the time.
“Steve’s performance definitely warranted him getting another look,” Micheletto said. “Especially in the early going against BC with all the penalties that we were giving, put all of us in a bad spot. Steve came up with two or three really good saves in the 5-on-3 situations that really bolstered us and allowed us to keep our legs up from underneath us.”
Micheletto said Mastalerz’s teammates helped him out too.
“So he really did a yeoman’s job in the first period,” Micheletto said, “and then we allowed him to kind of put it on cruise control from there a little bit.”
After Mastalerz’ performance on Friday, he has 1-3 overall record with a 3.78 goals-against average and a .859 save percentage. He is second on the team in all three categories behind Boyle, who has a 7-7-2 record, a 2.60 GAA and a .900 save percentage.
In Hockey East action, Boyle ranks third in GAA (2.09), fifth in save percentage (.922) and sixth in winning percentage with a record of 4-4-1. Mastalerz has not met the minimum requirement of playing in 40 percent of his team’s minutes to be included in the Hockey East’s Conference goaltending statistics.
Despite Mastalerz’ performance the past two weekends and Boyle’s statistical advantage, Micheletto has stressed all season that each position’s starter isn’t etched in stone.
Mastalerz said this approach is not hard on the goalies, because Micheletto told them from the beginning that this was his plan.
“So you have that mindset going into it so you just go out and try to compete as hard as you can and that’s all you can do,” Mastalerz said. “So if you do that, there’s a good chance of being in net on Friday night.”
Micheletto said having multiple goalies at the moment is a good thing, but he said the ideal situation will be for one of the goalies to step up and take the No. 1 spot before the end of the season.
But for the moment, Micheletto’s glad to see Mastalerz back on the ice and playing well.
“I’m happy for Steve.”
Cameron McDonough can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @MDC_McDonough.