Evan Cowley would love to play every game in net for the Denver Pioneers, and being the reigning NCHC Goaltender of the Week the junior could make a great case to play both games this weekend at Wisconsin.
But it’s not going to happen, and Cowley is just fine sharing the net with sophomore teammate Tanner Jaillet. The duo did it last season and continue to form one of the top 1-2 goalie tandems in the country.
Cowley takes the net in the series opener at Wisconsin at 8:30 p.m. ET Friday on ASN — part of a college hockey night in America doubleheader. In Friday’s first game on ASN, Boston University (5-3-2) plays host to Michigan (5-1-1) at 6 p.m. ET.
“It’s all good,” Cowley said of the goalie timeshare. “Tanner and I have a great relationship. He’s a really good goalie and deserves to play, just I like to think I deserve the same. It’s gotten to the point where we like the fact that we know we’ll get our one game and we can put all our effort into it.”
They are undoubtedly the best 6-3-1 team in the country. All three losses — two in overtime — have been by one goal and last week they were on the losing side of NCHC history when they fought to a double-overtime tie with Duluth. In the NCHC if teams are tied after overtime they go to a 3-on-3 period and if a goal is scored the winner gets an extra point in the standings, but it is reflected as a tie in the won-loss records.
“I guess you could say we’ve been snakebit and have to get over that hump but we’ve also played some really good teams like Boston and Boston College and we’ve shown we can play with them,” Cowley said. “But that 3-on-3 overtime is a lot of fun. I became a fan just like everyone else in watching it. It’s so wide open.”
Any other outcome and Jaillet, not Cowley, may have won goalie of the week honors.
Jaillet won a team-high 15 games as a freshman last season and last Saturday turned back 50 of 52 shots against UMD.
Cowley trumped the performance by posting 27 saves in last Friday’s 3-0 win over the Bulldogs. He carries a 2.17 goals-against average and .921 save percentage into tonight’s game. Jaillet is at 2.19 and .924.
Neither, however, will be the most talked about goalie on the ice this weekend. Wisconsin, which won just four games last season, was last seen handing previous No. 1 North Dakota its first loss of the season at UND’s Ralph Engelstad Arena. The win is the WCHA’s lone victory in eight games against the NCHC this season and it led the Badgers to a series split behind freshman goalie Matt Jurusik.
Jurusik has solidified the nets for Wisconsin, carrying a 2.66 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage into tonight’s game along with a 2-0-2 record at home.
A sweep in either direction could do wonders for both teams.
So far this season, with the exception of the ECAC’s third-ranked Qunnipiac, Hockey East and NCHC teams have dominated the polls. Come seeding time for the playoffs, non-conference records will loom big, particularly for the WCHA and Big Ten.
That’s also why the Big Ten will be pulling for Michigan in tonight’s opener. Big Blue has just one loss, but hasn’t played a particularly strong schedule yet and now faces a BU team coming off back-to-back ties against No. 1 Providence.
The Terriers are led by senior captain Matt Grzelcyk, who returned from knee surgery two weeks ago. The Boston Bruins’ draft pick has solidified the blue line play for BU, and Jakob Forsback Karlson provided the offensive spark against Providence with a hand in all four of the team’s goals during the series while sophomore goalie Connor LaCouvee stopped 64 of 68 shots. He’s allowed just one full-strength goal over the last 10 periods of play.
Michigan counter with freshman forward Brendan Warren, who had a career-high three assists in a 7-3 win over Niagara last weekend.