Bachman Leads Stellar Class of WCHA goaltenders
by Brad Salmen/CHN Writer
The new 2-and-2 officiating system being implemented throughout college hockey might have come just in time to save the WCHA. Because if this year's cast of goaltenders continue the trend of the past couple seasons, in another five years or so, spectators would be relegated to watching soccer-esque 1-0 snoozefests.
This is, of course, an exaggeration — but just barely. Consider this: in just two seasons, scoring in the WCHA has fallen by nearly a goal per game. In 2005-06, the aggregate goals against average (GAA) for all 10 teams was 2.77. Two years ago, it was 2.59. And last year, it was a miniscule 2.35. That's .42 goals per game, or .84 per game for two teams squaring off against each other.
Why the precipitous drop in scoring? One answer: Richard Bachman.
Not so much Bachman himself, although one could argue the Colorado College sophomore goaltender independently accounted for a .10 GAA league-wide drop last season. Rather, it's what Bachman represents: the statistical leader of the staunchest group of goaltenders, top-to-bottom, the WCHA has seen in quite some time.
"I think one of the reasons scoring was down (last season) somewhat is because of the strong crop of goalies that were in the league," said Bachman's coach Scott Owens. "Upperclassmen like (J.P.) Lamoureux, (Peter) Mannino and (Michael-Lee) Teslak were excellent in net, combined with youthful standouts like Bachman, (Alex) Kangas, (Alex) Stalock and (Jase) Weslosky to name only a few.
"It can be cyclical and the goaltending in the WCHA is very strong right now."
The numbers speak for themselves, sometimes in eye-popping fashion — Lamoreaux's 1.75 GAA and .932 save pct., for example. Sometimes they're surprising — few would have predicted that St. Cloud St. would not miss a beat from Bobby Goepfert (2.29 GAA) to Weslosky (2.11), and ditto Brian Elliott (2.10) to Shane Connelly (2.44) for Wisconsin. Even fewer still could have foreseen Minnesota State's Mike Zacharias dropping his GAA a whole point, from 3.07 to 2.08.
But nothing was more eye-popping, or for many people more surprising, than Bachman. Even Owens, who knew he had a talented recruit with a penchant for winning big games, admitted to a dash of astonishment at the level of success his young netminder enjoyed last season (25-9-1, .931 save pct., 1.85 GAA).
"We were a little surprised at how quickly he adapted to the WCHA and the immediate success he had," said Owens. "His consistency as a freshman was something that we were continuously impressed with ... something that I feel really sets him apart is his poise and calmness in net."
Michigan Tech coach Jamie Russell called Bachman among the best in college hockey.
"He's definitely a large reason why I voted for (Colorado College) in the preseason poll," he said.
With the new officiating system, Bachman's numbers — along with every other goaltender's — seem certain to climb this season. And Mannino, Lamoreaux and Teslak gone this season, goal scoring in general might be back in vogue.
But don't bet on it. Bachman himself replaced one of the top goaltenders of 2006-07 in Matt Zaba, and odds are that yet another freshman phenom or two will rise to replace the three aforementioned departures.
Combined with the return of eight strong netminders, the cycle just might continue instead.