Last season, there were few decisions either Canisius or Niagara had to make about their starting goaltender.
Not so this season. The answer to “who’s starting in goal” isn’t as clearcut as it used to be.
At Niagara, the departure of Atlantic Hockey Player of the Year Carsen Chubak for a professional career left the net to a pair of freshmen goaltenders — Jackson Teichroeb and Adrian Ignani.
At Canisius, Tony Capobianco had the hot hand last season but as a senior he is being pushed by junior Keegan Asmundson.
And such is the life of a goaltender.
“I think the goalies understand better than anyone else that only one guy can play because they’ve lived it their whole life,” Canisius coach Dave Smith said. “I think they’ve been fine and we’re looking for better than fine so absolutely there’s a competition.”
Capobianco and Asmundson will look to anchor the Golden Griffins (8-12-2, 7-6-2) in a home-and-home series with first-place Mercyhurst (13-9-4, 11-1-3). They open tonight at 7 p.m. at Buffalo State then move to Erie, Pa., for Saturday’s game.
Asmundson made 31 saves for the Griffs in a 4-3 win over Mercyhurst on Nov. 9. Canisius remains the only team to have beaten the Lakers in Atlantic Hockey this year.
Asmundson has started nine games while Capobianco has played in 13. For Capobianco, the competition has helped him get back to his game after an 0-3 start in Atlantic Hockey. Since then, he’s gone 4-0-2 in conference play with a 2.20 goals against average and .930 save percentage in those last seven starts.
“It’s good to put pressure on yourself to try and stop more pucks than the other guy in a good way,” Capobiano said. “For me it starts in practice and really bearing down on every puck and locking in and focusing. I think that carries over to the game.”
Asmundson, who also picked up the win at then-No. 17 Denver, has gone 3-3-0 in conference games. It’s been a year of gaining experience and confidence for Asmundson, who looks to learn from Capobianco’s leadership.
“If I’m not in the net, I’m cheering him on, talking to him in the locker room and he’s doing the same for me,” Asmundson said.”
The same thing goes for Teichroeb and Ignagni at Niagara.
The Purple Eagles (5-14-3) have a home-and-home series with RIT (8-11-3, 7-7-1) this weekend, hosting the Tigers at 7 p.m. Friday night in a nationally televised game on CBS Sports Network. The series moves to Rochester on Saturday night.
Both Teichroeb and Ignagni have started games and did not finish them. Both have picked up wins and both have struggled giving up late goals.
“It’s tough at times but that’s part of being a goalie, right? There are a lot of ups and downs and things can change every couple of minutes,” Ignagni said. “So you’ve just got to stay focused, stay simple and do what you know.
“I think it’s good that we’re friends off the ice and we help encourage each other on the ice but there’s a competition between us and we know that,” Ignagni said.
Niagara owns just a 5-7-3 record in Atlantic Hockey play a year after winning the regular season title and going to the NCAA Tournament.
“After the year they had last year I wanted to come in and play well for them but it’s been tough,” Teichroeb said. “We’ve had our ups and downs. I feel like between me and Iggy we can both be more consistent. That’s just something we’ve got to keep working for.”
Teichroeb has a 3.01 goals against average with an .895 save percentage while Ignagni is at 3.60 and .886. Purple Eagles’ coach Dave Burkholder is confident about their futures.
“First and foremost, I look for competitive spirit, and both of these guys are passionate about their position and about the sport and their team,” Burkholder said. “This experience this season is going to be invaluable for both of them. It certainly is going to make them mentally stronger.”