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October 22, 2011 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

Still the Reit Man for the Job

Reiter Improves in Solid Weekend for UMD

by Joe Meloni/CHN Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE, R.I — Providence defenseman Alex Velischek burned down the left wing with three teammates trailing the play. Two Minnesota-Duluth defensemen drifted backward, analyzing the onslaught Velischek and his teammates were about to start.

Behind the defensemen, UMD goaltender Kenny Reiter confidently turned to face Velischek. Focused on the puck, he turned, crouched, waited. The puck kicked of a defenseman's knee, and play continued away from Reiter for the remainder of the period. That potential onslaught never came. Either way, Reiter was ready — confident.

Confident in his teammates to keep PC out of grade-A. Confident in himself that any shot would find a pad or a glove, rather than twine. It's been a couple weeks since Reiter was fully confident at the end of a game.

"I was confident all game. I wasn't too worried about it," Reiter said. "We were controlling a lot of the play, so I knew if I was going to see anything it was going to be off the rush. I just made sure to read the play well."

Entering the weekend trip to Providence, which began with a 5-2 win on Friday before Saturday's 2-2 tie, Reiter's season had hardly progressed as he hoped. Visits from Notre Dame and Minnesota will do that to most goaltenders, but most goaltenders haven't backstopped their clubs to a national championship.

While the expectations have changed — for both the Bulldogs and Reiter — with the new banner, nothing is different in Duluth. They knew they could win a national championship last season, and 2011-12 began with that same notion. Those losses irritated Reiter, especially the sweep dealt to UMD by the Gophers last weekend. Compounding the problem, for Reiter at least, was his performance. In losses, three of which he started, his save percentage was .841 and his goals-against average more than 4.

UMD coach Scott Sandelin didn't point to one particular area of his goaltender's game that needed improvement.

"Who knows. I didn't know," Sandelin said of the issues hurting Reiter. "That's why I've continued to play him. He's good enough to work himself out. Last night was a good game for him, certainly after the first period. I thought tonight he played outstanding, so that's a good sign. When we get goaltending like that, giving us a chance to win with those saves, we're fine."

Still, this is Reiter's job, and he had a few areas he knew needed improvement for the Bulldogs to have a successful weekend in Providence before the 12 consecutive WCHA games they will play to close the first half of the season.

"Controlling pucks and trying to be more aggressive, that's the way I play," Reiter said. "That's when I'm at my best. Just those little things that's I think I improved on this weekend and put some solid games together."

For most goaltenders, putting consecutive strong efforts together is everything. Not only does it mean he did his job, it usually means his team wins. Give the Friars some credit for holding UMD to two goals on Saturday, still Reiter played well enough to guide his team victory.

From the net out, things weren't perfect for the Bulldogs. It's October, though. Not a single club in the country is right just yet. The Bulldogs are younger than were a year ago, probably a little less talented and the banner hanging above their head could be a burden this season if they let it become one.

"It's tough to do sometimes," Reiter said of moving past the national championship. "It's something that we've tried to stress. We can't live in last year, because it's now. We're trying to move forward here and build our own legacy for this year."

Moving forward appears to be the theme right now in Duluth. For the team as whole, moving forward from last season and an inconsistent October. For Reiter, the first step came this weekend. A win and a tie on a weekend road trip would satisfy most players and teams.

"It sucks," Reiter said of Saturday's draw, "having that power play at the end, we need to capitalize."

Then, most teams aren't the defending national champions. And most players aren't Kenny Reiter. 

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