Dill taking advantage of playing time in net for UMass hockey

By Anthony Chiusano

(Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian)
(Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian)

Coming into the 2014 season, Massachusetts hockey coach John Micheletto said the play of his team’s 15 underclassmen, including nine freshmen, would be crucial to the Minutemen’s success.

While Jake Horton, Patrick Lee and Keith Burchett have combined for five goals to lead an offensively sound freshmen unit, the UMass defense has been supported by the play of freshman goaltender Henry Dill.

The Columbus, Ohio native started in net in the Minutemen’s past three games and has earned the win in each of UMass’ two victories this season. For his performance last weekend – Dill accumulated 69 total saves in two starts against Northeastern and No. 6 Boston College – he was named Hockey East Rookie of the Week.

“I’ve settled into it,” Dill said of adapting to collegiate level play. “It’s a little faster, but it took a couple of weeks and I feel right at home.”

Dill opened the season as the backup goalie on the depth chart behind the incumbent starter, senior Steve Mastalerz. Mastalerz started 31 of 34 games for the Minutemen last season, posting a respectable 2.77 goals against average.

However, after Mastalerz allowed 11 goals in UMass’ first two games – both losses –Dill was given his first starting nod on Oct. 18 against Michigan State.

“There were definitely some nerves going in,” Dill said. “I remember I sat behind the net I was starting in and just thought about the atmosphere that was going to be there. I was really looking forward to it, and I started to calm myself down toward the beginning of the game.”

Dill finished his debut with 28 saves in a 4-3 victory for the Minutemen, their first of the season.

“I’m really confident in myself already, and I know what I am capable of doing,” Dill said. “So just coming in here and just feeling like I am ready just prepared me as much as I could be.”

Following the win against the Spartans, Dill was rewarded with two more starts against the Huskies and Eagles on consecutive nights. In Friday’s performance at Northeastern, Dill recorded 42 saves in a 3-2 victory.

After the game, senior captain Troy Power praised the freshman’s play under consistent Huskies’ pressure, saying that Dill allowed UMass to “steal” a win.

However, Dill maintained that his personal success came from the play of his teammates in front of him.

“The guys were just being motivational for me,” Dill said. “Whether it was making big hits or blocking shots, they really sacrificed themselves that game. And it pushed me.”

Although the Minutemen lost 4-1 in Saturday’s matchup against BC, Dill once again played well, finishing with 27 saves and giving up two of his three goals on a 5-on-3 disadvantage.

“The biggest thing is just how efficient I think he was,” Micheletto said. “He makes difficult saves look easy sometimes.”

Micheletto attributed this ability to make these tough saves to his awareness in the crease and to his overall level demeanor.

According to Micheletto, Dill eliminates the need to make “athletic” saves by consistently moving his 6-foot-2, 205 pound frame into the right position to have the puck hit off his chest and be covered to quickly stop play. Micheletto said this quality is important in preventing second opportunities for attacking opponents.

As for Dill’s poise, Micheletto said that the freshman’s “laid back” personality off the ice directly correlates to his calm, even-keeled demeanor seen during games.

“Whether it be poise as in just staying calm in the net or not letting the jeers get to you from other players and fans, it’s been a big component of what I’ve been doing,” Dill said.

Dill said his self-confidence and ability to remain calm has aided his success in preparing for all three of his road starts.

“I don’t worry about who we’re playing. If you think about who we’re playing, whether they’re going to get drafted or whatever, it doesn’t do any good,” Dill said. “You just gotta worry about your game and what you can do. I just think about making saves.”

Despite Dill’s recent success, Micheletto said that this week’s practices will dictate who will receive playing time at goalie for UMass in their upcoming two-game weekend series at Maine.

He also noted the importance of keeping Dill, Mastalerz and third-string sophomore Alex Wakaluk sharp as the season continues.

“You have to make sure to ride the hot hand but also want to make sure that you don’t let anyone get cold,” Micheletto said. “Then, hopefully at the end of the year, we’re probably going to get to a situation where we are probably going to ride the hot hand throughout.”

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.