February 16, 2007
A Goaltending Option at Maine

By Jeff Howe

Dave Wilson remembers his first career start in net. The starting goalie of his Ontario house league team got sick and was about to miss the rest of the season so the coach asked someone to step up. Wilson, then a 12-year-old blue liner, decided to rise to the challenge.

He allowed 12 goals.

Hockey East Notebook

Dave Wilson made a name for himself last weekend, but was pulled from Thursday night's game against Boston College.

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"It was pretty depressing," Wilson said. "I was pretty young so I didn't think that much about it, but at the same time, I was thinking, 'Wow, my team just gotten beaten pretty badly.'"

It would be understandable if his confidence was a little shaky when he made his debut between the pipes last weekend for Ben Bishop, who was out with a groin injury and hip flexor. Plus, Maine was hosting Vermont for a pair at Alfond in a huge series that would give the upper hand for home ice in the Hockey East playoffs.

Wilson was thrown directly into the fire, and he extinguished 63 of Vermont's 64 shots in the Black Bears' two-game sweep.

"Going into the weekend, I was hoping I could prove myself," Wilson said. "It was just absolutely incredible right from the start on Friday night. The crowd was great, and I was just pumped up for the game. The way the team played was inspirational. We played solid defense all weekend, and it was great to come out with the four points."

Naturally, Wilson said he was a bit nervous when he first hit the ice, but he had a tougher time getting over the butterflies Saturday night. Maybe that was a good thing. He stopped all 31 Catamount shots to record his first career collegiate shutout.

"I had butterflies all weekend," said Wilson, who actually recorded a shutout the game following his 12-goal debacle. "The first night actually took less time than the second night. The first night, it took maybe halfway through the first period. The second night took about five or 10 minutes into the second period. It was weird how that played out.

"I thought I would be more relaxed the second night, but there was the added pressure that I knew Vermont was going to come after it with an even stronger game the second night. It was more stress because I knew it would be a tighter game."

The freshman netminder even had an extra hop in his step walking around campus on Monday.

"I did actually," he said. "I felt a lot more confident. Going into practice, I'm going to have a lot more confidence just knowing that I can play at that level."

The extra confidence can be a huge thing for a goalie who doesn't often see the ice, especially when he resides behind one of the premier netminders in the league, one who led his team to the Frozen Four just a season ago.

With Bishop still not completely back at 100 percent, Wilson got the start again during the first game of the series against Boston College, but allowed four goals on 19 shots in just over 30 minutes and was pulled in favor of Bishop. It may have been a tough outing, but Wilson's performances against Vermont showed his potential. This gives coach Tim Whitehead a luxury he didn't realize he had all season, as the sophomore Bishop started the team's first 27 games. Now, it's a luxury he plans on taking full advantage of.

"There's no question it's been a very good development for us," Whitehead said. "It's unfortunate Ben got hurt, but in the long run, it's very good for our team because now we have two very good goalies we can depend on in the stretch run. It's very good for us.

"I certainly feel that if David continues to play the way he is playing now, it would be foolish to just go with one [goalie]. The ideal scenario is both guys play well, and we can continue to get both in and go from there. We'd like to continue to get David in until Ben comes back at full strength."

Before Bishop's injury, a blessing in disguise for the Black Bears, Wilson had a tough time coping with the realization that he had no idea when – or even if – he would see the ice. Now, he knows he can be a reliable second option.

"It's difficult knowing that I probably won't play each weekend," Wilson said. "Ben has been really great this year. He has been our backbone this year. It's been tough for me personally to go out every night and focus and practice real hard all week, but once you get the chance, you've got to prove yourself."

Mission accomplished.


All in the family: Before he was his coach or his biggest fan, John Butler was New Hampshire freshman forward Bobby Butler's father.

John Butler, who has been coaching Marlborough High School hockey for 21 years, coached Bobby for five of them (he played in the eighth grade, too). Obviously, John never missed any of his son's games, and even though he now plays his home games 90 minutes north of Marlborough, that hasn't changed.

With the exception of a couple instances when John had to coach the Panthers, he has been to every of Bobby's 27 games. The pair he has missed he watched on television.

"It's awesome," John said. "Its great to watch that level of hockey and seeing him play at that level. He has worked hard for it, and it's a great reward."

They talk after every game, whether on the phone or in person, and Bobby still has to listen to his old coach get one last word in.

"After games, he is more of a coach, but he's a father afterwards," Bobby said.

When Bobby chose to attend UNH, he had a lengthy discussion with his father. After all, it's not the easiest decision in the world to play for a school that has long been known to recruit and play some of the best forwards in Hockey East.

"I just told him when we looked at the roster before he went that that he would be have a hard time being one of the top-12 forwards on that team," John said. "There are a lot of talented players up there, and he would have to fight just to be able to get a sweater up over his head.

"Then [Daniel] Winnik went to the NHL, some kids got hurt, spots opened up and he got his chance. I told him he would have to be patient, go there in best shape of your life and make it so the coach has to dress you."

He started the season on the fourth line, but after the Wildcats suffered a few bumps and bruises, he got pushed up to the third line and even saw some time on the first line when Brett Hemingway missed a game.

"He can play on any line," UNH coach Richard Umile said. "He is a big, strong power forward. He's like a young Brett Hemingway with a lot of power. He is going to be a good player for us.

"In my opinion, he is one of the top forwards in the league. He has done a lot for us in a lot of different spots. We're really pleased with him."

"I'm just glad to be out there," Bobby said. "It's a great group of guys to play with."
Regardless of where he sits on the line chart, he has turned an entire town into UNH followers, including his younger brother Alec, a defenseman for Marlborough High.

"The whole town of Marlborough – everyone who watches hockey – is proud of him," John said. "They all watch his games. Even the guys he played against like Hudson (Marlborough's huge rival), Leominster and Gardner, I talk to those guys and they are proud that he is a Central Mass. kid. He has a lot of fans out there that he doesn't even know about."

Great Weekend Getaway
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UNH at BU (Sat.)
If UNH can earn at least a point in the two teams' meeting Friday night in Durham, the Wildcats can win the Hockey East regular-season crown Saturday at Agganis Arena. UNH has won three in a row since dropping two of three, and has outscored teams 9-3 in the process. The Terriers tied UNH, 4-4, at the Whittemore Center earlier this season, but will be fighting to avoid a Beanpot hangover this weekend. BU (first) and UNH (third) are representing two of the best defenses in the country this year.

While You’re There: If you get into town a night early, Boston College hosts Maine on Friday. This will serve interest to fans of both teams, since they can head to Conte Forum and cheer against their chief rival.

Stick Salute

Thanks to the good guy working in the Garden's Will McDonough Room, who stayed until nearly 2 a.m. after the Beanpot final — even though he had to be on a construction site at 5:30 a.m. — while a few writers finished their stories. Same for a couple more workers who opened the garage an hour after it closed, saving some writers from having to rent a bench for the night from the homeless folk at North Station.

Bench Minor

Now that Jeremy Jacobs has opened his wallet for some high-priced free agents, can he pay the heating bill at the Garden, too? It's freezing in that place.


• This is one of the most unique weekends Hockey East has seen in quite some time. First-place New Hampshire plays second-place Boston University. Boston College plays Maine (each team is tied for third). Fifth-place Vermont plays sixth-place Massachusetts. Seventh-place Northeastern plays eighth-place Providence. And ninth-place Lowell plays 10th-place Merrimack.

• Here are John Curry's numbers compared to the only other two goalies who have won the Hobey Baker. Heading into this weekend, Curry is second in the nation with a 1.76 goals against average, third with a .936 save percentage and first with six shutouts. He also has a 13-5-7 record between the pipes.

Ryan Miller, who won its in 2001 with Michigan State, had one of the greatest seasons in college hockey history for a goalie. He boasted a 1.32 GAA, .950 save percentage, 10 shutouts and 31 wins.

Robb Stauber became the first netminder to win the award in 1988 with Minnesota. He posted a 2.72 GAA, .913 save percentage, five shutouts and 34 wins. It's worth noting that neither goalie won the national championship.

• Brian Boyle, Simon Danis-Pepin and Ben Bishop all appeared on the ice together at Conte Forum Thursday night. All standing at 6-foot-7, they are the three tallest players in the league.

• Nevin Hamilton has recorded two shutouts in his last three games for UMass Lowell. The River Hawks are 2-0-1 over their last three games.

• Cory Schneider is now tied for fifth-all time for victories by a BC goalie. He won his 53rd game last weekend, knotting him up with Greg Taylor (1993-97) and BC assistant coach Jim Logue (1958-61).

• During last Friday's "White Out Night" at the Mullins Center, 7,240 fans witnessed UMass' 3-2 loss to BU. It marked the second-most fans to watch a UMass hockey game.

• Just when you think things are going right, here comes UNH. Merrimack had killed off 70 of its last 76 penalties entering last weekend, but the Wildcats scored five power-play goals in their weekend sweep of the Warriors.

• Friar Chase Watson and Minuteman Brett Watson faced off for the first time ever in their collegiate careers last weekend.

• Vermont has scored one goal or less in five of its last six games.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report. Jeff Howe can be reached at jeff@insidecollegehockey.com.