November 18, 2002
Postcard: Mantua's goal recalls special night

When I heard Western Michigan goalie Mike Mantua scored a goal Saturday night, it was like stumbling upon the movie my girlfriend and I saw on our first date. Fond memories.

Except we've seen a lot of movies together. And I've only seen one goalie score a goal in person.

College Goalies Who Scored a Goal
College Year
Mike Mantua Western Michigan 2002
Chad Alban Michigan State 1998
Andy Allen Vermont 1998
Damian Rhodes Michigan Tech 1989
Jim Tortorella Maine 1980

It was 1998, in Michigan State's Munn Ice Arena. Chad Alban in the midst of a season so good, only a Little League All-Star could rob him of the Hobey raced from his net to the corner behind him and to his right. He fired the puck in the air; some of the Spartans were so sure it was going in, they were celebrating before it landed, just shy of the Ferris State blue line.

So was I. Showing as much restraint as I could muster in the "no cheering" press box, I ducked down in my chair so fewer people would notice. It didn't matter the entire arena was going crazy.

Munn's crowd is usually reserved, especially compared to Lawson Ice Arena at Western Michigan where the students are over the top, in a bad way. I can only imagine what that place was like Saturday night.

In Munn on that Senior Night, there was an instant sense of history. The Spartan bench emptied in celebration, but the CCHA officials showed the good sense not to issue a penalty. Within 15 minutes, it had the where-were-you-when quality of a presidential assassination, but in a good way.

My favorite story: the television cameramen who left their position early to attend the post-game press conference. As they walked through the stands behind the Ferris goal, the puck floated at them like an effect in a 3-D movie in slow motion, but too fast to get the camera out to film it.

It's not even the element of surprise that makes it special, however. Mantua said he had told his teammates that he would score a goal this year. Similarly, I thought Alban would in 1998; I even compiled the list above, of college goalies who had scored a goal, in anticipation of his accomplishing the feat.

It was actually seeing it that moved people. All season Ron Mason had resisted calling Alban the best goalie he'd ever seen chances are he was already recruiting Ryan Miller but he gushed after the goal, hugging Alban as he left the ice.

"I've seen it on TV in the NHL a few times and I knew if anyone could do it, it would be Chad," he said. "That puts the icing on the cake for him."

That's what's so amazing about a goalie scoring a goal Ron Mason, in over 50 years of playing and coaching hockey, had never seen it happen in person.

What sport has a similar feat? In baseball, a home run is a home run. In basketball, a dunk is certainly nothing special, even if you're a Princeton fan. Football? We know where we were when Flutie found Phelan, but that was a unique circumstance, not a type of play that the next generation could enjoy anew. The closest thing is a hole in one, and I'd bet every avid golfer knows someone with one, if they haven't actually seen it happen.

You almost wish it happened more often. But it's better that it doesn't.

– Nate Ewell


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