From the time he rises at 6:15 a.m. for uniform inspection until he finishes his homework at 10:30 p.m. Shane Starrett’s day at the Air Force Academy leaves precious little room for personal activity.
However, within a crammed 16-hour schedule the sophomore from Bellingham, Mass., continues to mold himself into one of college hockey’s top goaltenders. In fact, Starrett is coming off a season in which he was not only named to the Atlantic Hockey Conference’s all-rookie team, but he was the first freshman goalie in the Falcons’ 48 years of varsity play to earn first-team all-conference honors after finishing 11th nationally with a goals against average of 1.92 to go with a .924 save percentage.
A sophomore slump has not been part of the deal this season as Starrett, who is one of 20 goalies on the watch list for the 2017 Mike Richter Award as the top Division I goalie. He heads into Friday night’s game at Western Michigan with a record of 6-2-1 with a 2.56 GAA and .919 save percentage. The game, which will feature both teams sporting 6-3-1 records, is Friday on ASN.
Starrett has flourished on the ice while continuing to get accustomed to the demands of being a cadet at the academy. While Starrett has done well for himself in Colorado Springs fulfilling the obligations set forth by his schedule is a daily challenge, as it is for most cadets.
“I think the hardest part is dealing with the day-to-day time management,” he said. “There is not a lot of rest time. I try to cram a little nap here and there, but you are always on a time crunch. I might have two papers due on a Tuesday and also have two other homework assignments due, but I have to practice. Trying to manage it and fit it all into one day is what I find the toughest. I have to bear down sometimes because putting something off until tomorrow is not going to benefit me.”
The 22-year-old Starrett benefitted from two seasons of juniors in the U.S. Premier Hockey League prior to arriving at the academy. He appeared in a total of 78 games for two teams and earned all-star recognition both years.
“In juniors you really are just focusing on hockey and fine tuning your skills,” he said. “Playing junior got me ready for coming here.”
His brothers helped get him ready as well. Peter and Anna Starrett are hockey parents if there ever was as their four boys either played or are currently playing in the collegiate ranks. Peter (Harvard 2009-12) and Troy (Babson College 2011-14) remained close to home in Massachusetts while Beau, a year younger than Shane, was a third-round draft pick by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2014 and is a forward at Cornell.
“It really helped me and showed me what it would take to get to that level,” Starrett said of the influence of his older brothers.
He and Beau are very close and routinely keep up with how each other is performing.
“We really push each other to get better and we kind of try to outdo the other,” he said. “We text each other and check in on each other. It is helping both of us that we are going through (college) at the same time.”
Air Force coach Frank Serratore admires Starrett’s diligence between the pipes and how his netminder has often saved the day, if not the skin, of his teammates.
“He is a great goalie who has covered up a lot of mistakes for us, which great goalies do,” said Serratore, in his 20th season guiding the Falcons. “He is a big man in the net with great athleticism. He really has not had a bad game for us since he came to the academy. The games he had that he did not succeed are the games we let him down.”
In July the 6-5, 195-pound Starrett was selected to compete in the Blackhawks’ developmental camp. The five-day camp gave him a sample of playing with and against top-flight prospects.
“Being able to see the skill level with guys from Europe and major junior leagues in Canada really helped show me that, if I want to make it beyond college, what it will take,” he said.
Starrett certainly has what it takes to continue to lead the Falcons. His consistency has been a hallmark to this point in his career.
“When it comes to first-shot saves he is pretty much a brick wall, which is a huge luxury to have for us,” said senior defenseman Johnny Hrabovsky. “Give him the first shot and he is going to make 99 percent of the saves and then we will be there to help clean up.”
Hrabovsky and Serratore noted not only how a good a goalie Starrett has been, but also how well his personality has meshed with the team. Both said he was kind of a free spirit who keeps everybody loose. To that extent Starrett has successfully separated the Cadet Ice Rink from the rest of the academy.
“I basically use hockey as my getaway from everything up on the hill, from homework and the military aspect,” he said in referencing the academy’s topography. “When I am on the ice it is my chance to relax and have fun. For a few hours I can relax and play the sport I love.”
It is a mindset that has been boon to Starrett and the Falcons.