UMass Sophomore Netminder Steps Up
by Matt Taylor/CHN Reporter
It's probably safe to say that, if you were to name the elite goalies in college hockey, Massachusetts netminder Jon Quick wouldn't be one of the first few names mentioned, if he was even mentioned at all.
But Quick has gotten off to a 3-1-1 start in his sophomore season for the Minutemen (4-1-1, 3-1-0 HEA), playing a large part in the team's best start since 2003-04. That was the year UMass went 7-1-0 to open the season, and ended it falling in three overtimes in one of the best Hockey East championship games ever.
The Hampden, Conn., native is ranked 11th nationally in goals against average (1.98) and is tied for fifth in save percentage (.939) while playing for a team that was expected to maybe crack the Hockey East playoffs. Instead, it's on the cusp of breaking into both major polls and sits atop the Hockey East standings.
"The team itself really isn't any different from last year," Quick said. "Last year we had a skilled team and all, but I think we're more focused this year and have a little better chemistry then in the past."
A third-round NHL Draft pick of the Los Angeles Kings, this is Quick's first year being the No. 1 goalie after splitting time with senior Gabe Winer. Quick struggled like many first-year players, posting a 4-10-1 record in 17 games with a 2.98 GAA; but his save percentage of .920 stood out, and showed signs of breaking out. He was named the Hockey East Rookie of the Month for November, and had three games of 40 or more saves, including a 47-save win against Boston College and a 48-save tie at Maine.
"It really has just come down to getting more repetitions in practice and doing the little things I've worked on all offseason with our goalie coach," Quick said. "One thing that's really helped me is just being square to the shots more often and giving the shooters nothing to shoot at."
In a talent laden league such as Hockey East, goalies often make a big difference. Stealing a game or two could be the difference between making the playoffs or not. Goaltenders can't do it alone and the whole defense has pitched in early, lowering the team's GAA to 2.33 from 2.81 a season ago, despite still giving up over 30 shots per game.
"Were probably a little more confident as a unit, and they've done a great job at clearing out rebounds," said Quick.
The confidence has shown in their play up to this point, with home-and-home wins over preseason Hockey East contender Providence as well as a solid all-around defeat of New Hampshire at the Whittemore Center. Their only loss to this point was a 4-1 defeat at the hands of top-ranked Maine in Orono, a game that was tied with under five minutes to go before a power-play goal and two empty netters sealed the Minutemen's fate.
The defense is largely intact from last year, the only loss being the ultra-talented Marvin Degon. Last year, Degon became only the second Minuteman to crack the Hockey East All-Star team, following in the footsteps of defenseman Thomas Pöck, who did it twice. Senior Mark Matheson and junior David Leaderer anchor the blueline corps, but they have also received positive contributions from freshmen Martin Nolet and Justin Braun along with the other returnees.
Scoring seemed to be a problem coming into the year, but is up significantly from last season's anemic 2.14 goals per game to 2.83. Cory Quirk has avoided a sophomore slump and leads the team with 3-4—7, which is more then half the points he had as a freshman in 30 fewer games. San Jose draftee P.J. Fenton has a trio of goals and assists, and freshman Will Ortiz is off to a 1-4—5 start.
It's safe to say though that UMass wouldn't be where it is without the early play of Quick, who visited other Hockey East and a couple of ECAC schools before settling at Amherst.
"When I came here to visit it just felt from the start like a real good fit for me," Quick said. "The coaching staff was tremendous and they were extremely supportive of everything."
So far, it's been a pretty good fit for everyone involved.