The goaltender--one of the most rewarding and, at the same time, most nerve-wracking positions in any sport.
This especially rings true heading into tonight's winner-take-all match between Harvard and RPI (unless tonight's game also ends in a tie).
An off-game in net by Harvard junior Tripp Tracy or RPI junior Mike Tamburro and his team's season will most likely come to an end. A standout performance, on the other hand, will probably earn his team a ticket to Lake Placid next weekend.
And if last night was any indication, those two goalies are itching to go to Lake Placid. They were on.
Tamburro did everything he possibly could last night to keep the Crimson off the board. Harvard's two goals resulted from perfect plays--he had no chance. Tamburro stopped 32 others.
Tracy (20 saves) stood on his head in the third period and overtime, allowing his team to come back and tie the game and prevent Harvard from losing.
"Tripp came up with some big saves right there at the end, boy," Harvard coach Ronn Tomassoni said. "You get that type of goaltending, and everyone just gets more and more confident."
Yes, RPI's two goals weren't pretty. Tracy was in good position both times, but the Engineers happened to find a hole and whack the biscuit through it.
It may have seemed as if Tracy was fighting the puck in the middle stanza, but the netminder disagreed.
"Those goals were just the kind of goals that found holes--I was in good position on them," Tracy said. "I got to get those things out of my head."
Did he ever!
Tracy robbed the Engineers several times late in the third period and overtime. He snuffed out two RPI breakaway attempts and made perhaps the best save of the night 3:10 into the overtime.
Jeff Matthews made a rush up the right side of the net and fired a shot to the left corner of the net. Tracy gloved it with an extended arm and held onto the puck as he fell to the ice, and Harvard was still alive. That save came less than a minute after he had poked away the puck on Jeff O'Connor's breakaway bid.
"I've come out overaggressive on breakaways [since the exam period], and by the time the guy comes to net he's got an open net and I'm 10 feet out," Tracy said. "Tonight I made sure that the guy earned the goal if he scored."
Tamburro, on the other hand, faced very few breakaways, but he did see many shots. That is, shots on goal and love taps as well.
Tamburro overdramatized one collision late in the first period to get the officials' attention. But he had a right to since the last time the two teams played, Harvard seniors Steve Martins and Ben Coughlin stopped short in front of him, sending a drift of snow into his mask.
Tamburro's ploy paid off last night, however. Late in the third period, juniors Kirk Nielsen and Jason Karmanos barrelled into Tamburro after the whistle had blown, and Karmanos was sent to the sin bin.
"That was pretty nice at the end of the game that the refs didn't mind calling a penalty with two minutes left," Tamburro said. "But all I think [the hitting] does is make me a little more alert out there, a little more feisty."
So tonight will see the end of one of these two teams' seasons.
Harvard hasn't faced elimination at home since 1992--the last time RPI visited Bright Hockey Center in a playoff game. The Engineers won, 4-3, in overtime.
"You got to treat [tonight's game] as much as you can as another game," Tracy said. "We've been very good team with our backs to the wall. None of us wants to call it a season."
"Heck, I'm exited about it," Tamburro said. "That's what college hockey is all about--two good teams going at it. Hopefully the best team will come away victorious."