Christoffer Hernberg played for the Espoo Blues in Finland before joining the 2015-16 River Hawks. (Photo courtesy of Timo Savela)
Finding a replacement, in any sport, is already a monumental task. Finding a replacement for arguably the best goalie in a program’s history – that is something that could take some time to figure out.
I am sorry River Hawk fans, but Kevin Boyle will not between the pipes this season. After breaking the school record for most shutouts in a season, with seven, he has since signed a contract with the Anaheim Ducks.
Who could possibly fill the skates of Boyle? Head Coach Norm Bazin has his pick of four young net-minders to fill the position.
Christoffer Hernberg is the only goalie on the roster with any NCAA experience – 99 minutes of it. When Hernberg had his chance last year he did not shy away. Playing two games, he posted a 1-0-0 record while stopping 32 shots with a .941 save percentage.
During a road game against Providence College, Hernberg was called on to play the final two periods. Allowing only one goal, he saved 13 shots and allowed UMass Lowell to stay with the defending National Champions.
Fans, meet Tyler Wall – you will be hearing a lot about him. The freshman, New York Ranger-draftee has a lot of hype around him.
With the Leamington Flyers of the GOJHL, Wall earned his last name. On his way to a 27-2-1 record, Wall allowed 1.49 goals per contest while saving .940 of shots sent his way.
At a young age, Wall already has quite the trophy room. Among his accolades are a spot on the Western Conference First Team All-Star and was given the Roy Bruhlman Award as Western Conference Rookie of the Year.
The Dark Horses
Insert sophomore Sean Cleary and freshman Garrett Metcalf. With four, young players at the same position, there will inevitably be some growing pains. Seeing four different players in net over the course of a season is a stretch, but I would not rule out seeing three this year.
Cleary did not see any action last season behind Boyle and Hernberg, but being under Bazin’s system for a year is always valuable.
Metcalf, drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in 2015, has his own impressive pedigree. Playing for the Madison Capitols and the Waterloo Blackhawks in the USHL last season, he posted a 13-16-2-2 record with a 3.21 GAA and .902 save percentage.
Although the numbers are not as impressive as his freshman teammate Wall, the USHL is a more competitive league than the GOJHL. That is not a knock on Wall as many GOJHL players go on to play in NCAA Division I and even the NHL.
Who will be in net?
First, we should take a look at the schedule to open the year. The boys in blue start the year at home against the sixth ranked team in the country, Minnesota Duluth.
There are some pros and cons having a freshman making their first collegiate start against a team of this caliber. If he plays well then his confidence is through the roof and he earns the respect from his teammates. But what if he plays poorly in his collegiate debut? I think the negative impact of a poor performance outweighs the impact of a positive debut.
This is why I would go with Hernberg to start the season. Although I believe Wall will end up blocking the net by the time the season comes to an end, I do not want to see Bazin rush him.
Behind the defensive core that are returning for their third season together, Hernberg is more than capable of keeping the goalie spot until Wall matures.
But then again, it is Coach Bazin.