The Niagara University hockey team had two options in goal this past season – but really only one choice.
An unproven freshman would play the majority of games between the pipes one way or another, something that hadn’t happened at Niagara in more than a decade.
Carsen Chubak, the previous starter, turned pro. And Cody Campbell, his backup, did not return to the Purple Eagles. So that left freshmen Jackson Teichroeb and Adrian Ignagni to compete to get the nod as starting goaltender.
The two Ontario natives took different paths to Niagara. Teichroeb posted good numbers with the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League, the top junior league in America. Ignagni led the St. Michael’s Buzzers to a championship last season in the Ontario Junior Hockey League, the top Canadian junior league that allows players to maintain NCAA eligibility.
Teichroeb started Niagara’s first game, Ignagni played the second, and then they rotated back and forth, with the battle lasting long into the season as both struggled to gain the upper hand.
“It was a tough year for the goalies,” said goaltending coach Ian Burt, also an accounting professor at the university. “Both of them went through stretches where you’d be like, ‘Wow.’ Then the next game he’d come out and couldn’t stop anything, and you’re like, what just happened to the kid we saw last week?”
At Christmas break, Teichroeb was 1-6-1, and Ignagni was 2-5-1.
Teichroeb won consecutive starts after the New Year, but then lost three straight. Ignagni appeared to find his groove at the end of January, stopping 69 of 70 shots in back-to-back wins against RIT, but then he allowed two goals in the first period – in a span of 30 seconds – in the next game and was pulled.
On Feb. 15, the team struggled against Robert Morris. Teichroeb allowed three goals in the first two periods, and coach Dave Burkholder replaced him with Ignagni for the third period to try to shake things up.
Robert Morris scored on its first shot less than a minute into the third period, and Teichroeb was put back into the net.
“The coaching staff was like, we’re pulling Jackson, we want to jump-start the team,” Burt said. “And then the first shot goes in, and it’s like, we can’t win. Nothing we do is going right here. That definitely hurt because after that (Ignagni) never saw another game.”
That, of course, was coupled with Teichroeb stringing together good performances that solidified his spot in net.
“We battled back and forth the whole year,” Teichroeb said. “He’s an extremely good goalie, so I just tried to compete with him. At the end of the year, I guess I strung a couple together, and we got on a little bit of a roll.
“I felt like I was getting more confident, more relaxed,” he said.
Niagara beat American International on March 7 and 8 to advance in the playoffs, and then took two of three from Air Force the following weekend to make it to the championship weekend. Teichroeb played every game, riding the best stretch of his career. Niagara lost, 5-4, in overtime in the semifinal round to eventual champion Robert Morris.
“Dave has always had that starting goalie, he’s always had that main guy, so he was like, ‘I’ve got to go with someone eventually,’” Burt said. “Teichroeb is just, right now, mentally a little better. Iggy would let in the bad goal in the inopportune time. So Teichroeb got that extra chance, and he was the one who took it and ran with it for the last month there.”
Playing at a consistently high level throughout the playoffs was an important step for Teichroeb’s future, Burt said. Earlier in the season he struggled playing consecutive days, but he showed progress by maintaining his level of play.
In discussing where Teichroeb stands after his freshman year, Burt made a comparison with current NHL goalie Ben Scrivens, whom Burt worked with at Cornell.
“With Scrivens, you saw his raw talent. He had the speed. He had the size. But he just needed to refine a couple things. Teichroeb is similar. He just needs to refine things.”
Teichroeb takes criticism well and understands the teaching points made during film study, Burt said.
“The tough part is taking that and seeing that and then putting it into your game,” he said.
“Goaltender is a lot of just repetitiveness, subconscious movements you’re doing all the time,” Burt added. “It’s built in – you just do it. So if you can get away from overcommitting to a shooter, he just always does it, he plays to the shooter so strong that he’s giving up the back door. If he can take that out of his game and gear back a bit, not commit so much to the original guy and sit back a little more, if he can take that to a game, it would make a huge difference. It would maybe take away a goal every other game, which in goaltending is huge.”
That’s one thing Teichroeb can work on in the future. But as for this year was concerned, he’s glad he had the opportunity to play. Teichroeb finished the season with a 9-14-3 record, recording a .907 save percentage and a 2.75 goals against average in more than 1,680 minutes played.
Ignagni recorded a 6-6-2 record, with a .900 save percentage and a 3.15 goals against average, in nearly 763 minutes played.
“A lot of goalies will go to college and basically sit on the bench for two years. Me and Iggy both had an opportunity to play of lot of games as freshmen,” Teichroeb said.
So what about next year?
“It’s going to be a battle between me and Iggy,” Teichroeb said. “Who ever is playing good is going to be in the net.”