A Mountain High Enough
by Jillian Saftel/CHN Reporter
BOSTON “It was a pleasure to play against a goalie of that caliber,” New Hampshire goaltender Casey DeSmith said last Saturday after congratulating his opponent on a fantastic game.
Judging by DeSmith’s comments, it seems unlikely he’d be referring to a goaltender seeing his first start since Jan. 10, 2010. But that was the case Oct. 27 at Matthews Arena when Northeastern senior Bryan Mountain got the start in net and racked up 44 saves in a 0-0 overtime draw with the Wildcats.
Mountain saw his first ice time of the 2012-13 season a night before his start at Matthews, coming in midway through the first game of a home-and-home weekend against UNH after starting goaltender Chris Rawlings was pulled. The Huskies jumped out to a 3-1 lead heading into the second period but were ousted in the last minute of play when John Henrion got the best of a loose puck to hammer home the 4-3 win for UNH.
Despite the last-minute goal, Mountain made 18 saves in his 33 minutes in net. Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said the decision to start Mountain in Saturday’s game was clear, and that he and his coaching staff told the senior goaltender Friday night he’d be the starter in their next game.
“The way Bryan came in last night and played the last 33 minutes, he played very well last night and he was in a rhythm. It was a flukey break at the end that gave them the two points, but he played very well so it was an easy decision based on his performance last night,” Madigan said. “Sometimes it’s good when you get in the night before, and you don’t play the full game, but you get a little but into the rhythm and you see some shots.
“He was ready tonight, there was no doubt. You could see it in his eyes. His eyes said it all around 5 o’clock.”
And ready Mountain was, saving all 44 shots the Wildcats threw at him for his first career shutout to give him a .984 save percentage in nearly 98 minutes played. The draw was the first in 163 games played between the Huskies and Wildcats, a series dating back to Dec. 10, 1930. DeSmith stopped 34 shots of his own, with each goaltender denying the flurries of offense both UNH and Northeastern provided.
“We generated offense, but you’ve got to give credit to their goaltender. He played well, both goalies played well,” UNH head coach Dick Umile said.
This is all pretty ironic considering that Jon Gillies bolted on Northeastern when he saw that Rawlings was coming back, concerned he would rarely play. That opened the way for Derick Roy, who bolted Brown, where he was scheduled to be the starter, in favor of Northeastern. Junior Clay Witt is actually next in line, but he's been injured.
Through all of that, Mountain stood in the background, waiting for an opportunity that may have never come. But it did.
The chance to get in some playing time in Durham may have allowed Mountain a chance to find a groove before starting a game of his own after having been away from game play for so long. He said getting some playing time took some of the nerves away from his Saturday start.
“I felt even last night going in the nerves in the first couple minutes but then luckily they threw a couple long shots on me, and I was able to settle down quickly,” Mountain said. “I felt like that carried over into the game today. It’s been a while since I’ve started, played a full game, but even so I felt confident with the way I was seeing the puck, my positioning, everything felt solid (Friday) night. I was pretty confident in that carrying over to (Saturday).”
And while the numbers speak for themselves and Mountain’s 44 stops were undeniably the highlight of the match, the story of Bryan Mountain’s career at Northeastern thus far goes beyond one standout performance to an extremely well respected teammate who shows up with his best day in and day out.
While Madigan made it a point that he couldn’t say enough about Mountain getting his first start in quite some time and that the Huskies team played hard for him, the admiration for Mountain could be seen on the ice just as the final seconds of overtime had run out. Each Northeastern player found their way to the net to give Mountain a tap on the helmet and offer their congratulations, a gesture that speaks louder than anyone’s praise.
“As a player and a person, he’s the same. He’s determined, he’s hard working, he’s got an unbelievable positive attitude. He comes to practice each and every day giving it his all. He’s a great teammate, he’s well respected in our locker room, he’s a real gentleman,” Madigan said. “It’s tough when you only have one goaltender getting to play, and he’s been one of three, so he hasn’t seen a lot of ice time in the last three years or so, and he just comes to practice every single day with a great attitude.”
Goaltending will make or break a team, and this has often been the case with Northeastern. The Huskies live and die by their goaltending, but that distinction hasn't been particularly solid in recent seasons. Since Brad Thiessen left the program in 2009, Northeastern's goaltending situation has proven both a strength and a troubling weakness at different times.
It seemed early on that the Huskies would go as far as Chris Rawlings would take them, but Mountain proved he’s ready and able to be called upon when needed.
“We’ll take it game-to-game, but we’ll build on Bryan’s success tonight,” Madigan said. “We’ll make those decisions as we move through, but Bryan has put himself into position.”
Starting or not, it doesn’t appear that Mountain’s focus will change. Whether it’s in front of a crowd with officials on the ice or during team practice, his goal continues to be helping his team in whatever way he can.
“I think anyone that hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time tries to seize every opportunity that they get because it might be few and far between,” Mountain said. “I just wanted to help the team get two points. I just focused on winning each period and not trying to do too much.
“If I just focused on helping my team, everything else would kind of fall into place.”