Kyle Hayton can pinpoint the first time he put on the goalie pads like it was yesterday. He was about 7, he said, and his dad was coaching his youth team when the original goalie didn’t show up for a game.
“So he told me I was going to do it,” the St. Lawrence goalie recounted. “I remember I wasn’t excited about it at all, but I got a shutout and I’ve been a goalie ever since.”
As squeamish as he may have been then, his success at St. Lawrence shows father does indeed know best. And Hayton is thankful for it.
“I love it now. I love the pressure of being a goalie because there is a lot of weight on your shoulders,” he said. “When a forward makes a mistake the defensemen have their back. When defensemen make mistakes, goalie have their backs, but when a goalie makes a mistake, it’s all on you.”
A few minutes talking to Hayton and it’s clear he thrives under pressure.
The sophomore is majoring in economics and business with Plan A being to continue playing professional hockey and Plan A1 being working on Wall Street or as an investment banker.
He can talk politics as easily as he can talk about how to defend a 2-on-1 breakaway.
He carries a .933 save percentage into a rematch against Colgate Friday on ASN. When the ECAC rivals met in early December, Hayton turned back 33 shots in a 6-3 win to help the Saints snap a seven-game losing streak against the Raiders.
Since then St. Lawrence (11-11-2) has gone 2-6. Colgate is 7-16-2 on the season.
“We don’t need to worry about what Colgate is going to do against us on Friday, we need to worry about ourselves and do what we do best,” Hayton said. “We’ve lost our way a little bit and need to get back on track.
“What makes a team like Quinnipiac (19-1-5, No. 1 in the nation and leading the ECAC) tough to beat is they follow their system perfectly. They play a very tight game and don’t go off the page often. When you follow a gameplan like they do you can be more successful. It’s something we need to work on as a team.”
Hayton seems to be one of the “big picture” players. Where some people judge by records and stats, he looks deeper.
For example, when it comes to the overall picture of college hockey powers, and he basically says don’t believe the hype.
“Teams like Boston and North Dakota get the headlines,” he said, “but I know the teams in this league can beat them. There was a point earlier this year when the ECAC had four teams in the top 10: Us, Yale, Harvard and Quinnipiac. I want to get back to that level.”
No St. Lawrence players, including Hayton, come to the rink with the pedigree of having been drafted by an NHL squad. Still, his performance last season was strong enough for him to get invited to a Chicago Blackhawks camp over the past summer.
As a freshman he was the ECAC Rookie of the Year and named to the second-team All-ECAC squad after setting school records for goals-against average (1.95) and save percentage (.937). He also set a single-season record for shutouts with five and was the ECAC rookie of the month three times.
Currently, he’s started 21 of 24 games for the Saints and has a 2.04 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage, ranking sixth overall in a goalie-heavy conference.
He’s also made the third most saves with 599, which may be the most telling statistic of what Hayton is being asked to do this season.
“Most goalie stats aren’t really good indicators of how someone is playing,” Hayton said. “Your goals-against could be high, but you could be facing 50 shots a night. And it doesn’t show what type of shots you’re facing. I could face 30 from the outside and have an easy night or face 15 right in front and it wouldn’t show.
“I guess the one stat that is the best indicator is save percentage, and I’d love to get mine up and over what I did last year.”