There’s more than just points on the line when the Massachusetts men’s hockey team plays a home-and-home against Boston College this weekend.
Senior goalie and captain Paul Dainton is also going for UMass’ all-time saves record. The Iqaluit, Nunavut native is just 19 saves away from the achievement, and while he recognizes its significance, he doesn’t want to read too much into it.
“I’m going to keep the spotlight away I think,” Dainton said. “We have some pretty important games left this year and we need to put a couple W’s on the board. It is a nice personal goal but that’s something that I can kind of look back at at the end of the season.”
Dainton assumed the starting role for the Minutemen as a rookie in 2007-2008, taking the reigns from current Los Angeles Kings’ standout Jonathan Quick. Dainton didn’t disappoint, registering a 12-14-6 record to go along with a .911 save percentage and 2.56 goals against average. His performance earned him Hockey East All-Rookie team honors and Hockey East All-Academic team honors.
Dainton hasn’t looked back since. Although not blessed with the most talented Minutemen squads, Dainton has been the model of consistency for the Maroon and White and is regarded as one of the top goaltenders in the HEA conference. Prior to this season, Dainton was named team captain, a decision backed by the entire team and coaching staff.
No one is more appreciative of Dainton’s efforts than UMass coach Don Cahoon.
“It’s an individual record but I wish we didn’t have to have him make the save, that’s the point of the matter,” Cahoon said with a smile. “It’s great for Paul and he’s been a real trooper and a guy that’s endured the struggle and he’s gotten better as he’s gone along so kudos to him.”
Dainton had to take his leadership role to a new level this year as 13 freshmen filled out UMass’ roster.
“Watching guys progress has [been fun],” Dainton said. “This year especially coming in with a young team and watching the guys grow and develop.”
While Dainton admits there have been many special moments throughout his career, one moment sticks out in particular. It came during a loss his sophomore year, when third-string goalie and current UMass baseball shortstop Matt Gedman entered the crease. According to Dainton, Gedman came in and was “flopping all over the place.”
Dainton will likely achieve the record this Friday at home in the Mullins Center in front of thousands of Minutefans who have countlessly hailed his miraculous saves. Still, Dainton does not want to make it about him.
The Minutemen, with 15 points, are currently tied with Vermont for seventh place in the conference. With four games remaining (two with Boston College, two with Maine), Dainton and his teammates understand the importance of each game.
“I don’t want to get caught up in [the record] this weekend or next weekend or the playoffs,” Dainton said. “That’s something I’ll keep quiet and maybe after the season, I’ll talk about it more.”
After a frustrating season, Dainton hopes his team can surprise people in the Hockey East playoffs, arguably the toughest conference in the nation. Still, Dainton understands his contributions to the program have been above average.
“As it’s coming to an end here it’s pretty special,” Dainton admitted. “I’ve been lucky enough to be in a situation where I’ve played as many games as I have and to kind of showcase what I have on the ice.”
Steve Levine can be reached at [email protected]