Bruins goalie, #35 Manny Fernandez, has won 14 of his last 19 starts and six out of his last nine games. New Jersey Devils goalie, #35 Scott Clemmensen, is on his own streak, posting 31 saves in a win against the Bruins last week and 27 saves against San Jose on Sunday.
But the number 35 that deserves this week’s fame is none other than the Harvard men’s hockey team’s goaltender, sophomore Ryan Carroll.
Last week, in his first three career starts, Carroll posted a total of 113 saves, bested some of the nation’s top collegiate goalies, and proved that he belongs in the Harvard net.
“I think Ryan did a great job,” junior Alex Biega said. “He proved to the rest of the nation that he has the ability to be the go-to guy for the team.”
With his performance over the weekend—which included a .922 save percentage—one could assume that Carroll has always belonged in the top goalie spot. But Carroll began this season just like last, as the backup.
In his freshman year, Carroll only saw playing time in one game after suffering an injury. The starter last year, then-sophomore Kyle Richter, made 883 saves throughout the season and was perhaps the team’s best player. Still, Carroll committed himself to becoming stronger for his sophomore year.
“Being injured was frustrating,” Carroll said. “But I’ve worked hard all summer and all season and now I’m finally in the net.”
However, even with Richter’s absence, Carroll found himself in the backup position once again—this time behind freshman goaltender Matt Hoyle. Hoyle has played 1127 minutes this season to Carroll’s 204. But while Hoyle was a major factor in Harvard’s hot start, the Crimson lapsed in the middle of the season, winning only once during a 16-game stretch.
During the consolation final of this year’s Beanpot, Carroll finally got his chance. Playing against No. 15 Boston College in front of a sold-out crowd at T.D. Banknorth Garden, Carroll made 42 saves in his first career start.
Despite a close 4-3 loss to the Eagles, Carroll demonstrated that the effort he’s put in since the previous season has paid off.
“Matt Hoyle is a great goalie, and I was confident that he would play well [in the beginning of the season],” Carroll said. “I was just there ready to take my chance.”
Carroll continued his time in goal last weekend against Colgate and No. 6 Cornell. Against the Raiders on Friday, the Crimson was outshot 31-23. It was Carroll’s 29 saves that helped Harvard to its 3-2 victory, and its sixth-place ranking in the ECAC.
“[We’re in] such a low scoring league, that in the goalie situation, it’s a position that is make or break,” Biega said. “Ryan was very sound positionally and he definitely has the poise to do tremendous things.”
Following the win, Carroll again showed his prowess in goal against the Big Red on Saturday night. With another 42-save game, Carroll helped the Crimson earn a 4-2 win against its historic rival. The fact that Carroll faced Ben Scrivens in the opposite goal added to his remarkable feat.
Not to be outdone by Scrivens, the stingiest goaltender in the country and frontrunner for the Hobey Baker Award given to the best national college hockey player, Carroll proved to be the better goaltender on the night.
“It was great, the atmosphere was unbelievable and it was unbelievable to upset them, especially since they are ranked number six in the country,” Carroll said.
Although the win over Cornell was a personal highlight for Carroll, he was quick to point out that that the moment was special for the team as well. “I’ve played really well and our team has played really well,” he said. “I’m proud to be in the net and help our team with some wins.”
Despite three solid performances last week, Carroll knows he needs to continue focusing on his play, especially with upcoming games against St. Lawrence and Clarkson this weekend.
“Now that I’m in the net I need to keep working,” he said
To Carroll, this season is not about his comeback kid story, but rather the comeback story of the team.
“It’s great to finally play but I wouldn’t put it as me being a Cinderella story. Hopefully [our winning streak] continues until playoffs and the rest of this season.”