When it mattered most, Kyle Richter finally came to play.
The talented yet inconsistent junior goalie had the best two-game stretch of his season last weekend in the first round of the ECAC playoffs, recording 33 and 37 saves respectively on back-to-back nights as Harvard swept the Princeton Tigers.
“Personally, I felt good,” Richter said. “The guys in front of me really did a good job in allowing me to see shots and made my job a lot easier...I thought it was a great team effort.”
On Friday night, Richter saved all but two of the shots fired at him, as the Crimson defeated its Ivy rivals, 4-2. He made a fantastic save on Princeton forward Mark Magnowski’s shot when he stretched out his left leg and blocked the puck with the tip of his skate early in the second period, which prevented the Tigers from going up 2-0 and having the momentum swing completely in their favor.
On Saturday night, Richter was perfect, earning the fifth shutout of his career and his first in the playoffs as Harvard won 3-0. He did not allow a goal in the final four periods of the series.
“Richter has been a big player for us,” freshman forward Luke Greiner said. “He steps up in big games and makes the saves we need him to make.”
Richter has been especially strong in Ivy League play, in which he saved 121 of the 131 shots against him during the regular season—a .924 save percentage, which led the Ancient Eight. He also allowed an average of just 2.48 goals per game in Ivy play, good for second in the conference. These statistics earned him an All-Ivy League honorable mention.
Despite this success, Richter struggled mightily at other times this year. He was unable to hold down the starting job since it was granted to him coming into the season, and ended up battling with fellow junior Ryan Carroll for playing time. He ended up starting only 15 games, compared to 13 for Carroll.
“Ryan and myself are really good friends on and off the ice,” Richter said. “We’ve really competed hard with each other and pushed each other throughout the year.”
Richter finished just 3-13-2 during the regular season, the worst winning percentage of any goalie in the conference, and often showed signs of rust after he took the 2008-2009 season off.
“Coming back, I’ve had to really focus on the swing of this year and get really back into game shape,” the goalie said. “It took a little bit to get back and get comfortable playing again at the college level...There was definitely a transition period.”
But the talent was clearly there, and Richter’s play picked up late in the season as he began to show signs of the goalie who won the Ken Dryden Award for the ECAC’s top goaltender as a sophomore in 2007-2008. In the five final contests Richter played in, he did not allow more than three goals in a game. And in the playoffs, Richter started and allowed two goals or less twice in a row—something he had done in only three games during the regular season.
His teammates realize that his dedication is producing results at the most important time.
“He’s been working really hard all year, but it’s really starting to pay off,” junior forward Michael Biega said. “[Recently] he’s been playing really well for us.”
Next up for Richter and his teammates is the No. 9 Cornell Big Red, another Ancient Eight foe. Richter saved 23 of 25 shots against Cornell on February 19, but his team still lost 3-0. Yet the goalie feels that the team the Big Red will be facing in Ithaca this weekend will be a better version of the one it defeated last month.