Listening to the WCHA conference call on Tuesday morning, netminding was a common theme. With only a couple of exceptions, goaltending is going to be a big question mark for a lot of teams — a lot of good teams — this season.
For Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings, that question chiefly depends on the ability of Phil Cook. Cook, a senior, is the only real known commodity on the roster when it comes to the goalie position. After Cook, there is sophomore Evan Karambelas and freshman Stephon Williams, a player who MSU coaches were excited about when he committed and signed with the school.
Cook's career numbers are solid. Over three season's he's played in 63 games and has a .900 save percentage and a 3.04 goals against average. His record over that span is 25-27-6. Last season, he had some games early in the year in which he struggled mightily. But after Christmas, he went on a nice run that included a 3-0 home shutout of Wisconsin and a pair of unlucky 2-1 losses. By playoff time, Austin Lee (who ended up getting voted team MVP after the season), was the No. 1 guy.
Hastings has hinted that Cook will get the first shot in goal on Friday night. The new coach wants to rely on his seniors, and Cook usually is the first player mentioned after captains Tyler Elbrecht and Eriah Hayes. Cook is capable — he's athletic and competitive and teammates seem to like playing in front of him — but can he be consistent?
Karambelas has made just one non-exhibition appearance for the Mavericks, replacing Cook against Alaska Anchorage last Thanksgiving-time and ending up getting a six-save, come-from-behind tie out of the deal. Is he a player in line to compete for a starting job or is he resigned to be a No. 3 goalie?
Williams, a Fairbanks, Alaska, native, is a player that had an outside shot at getting drafted last summer but was passed over. After a solid regular season in the USHL last year, he backstopped Waterloo's run to the Clark Cup finals. It seems like he's the goalie of the future for the Mavs; how soon that future begins remains to be seen.
Minnesota State goaltenders (2011-12 stats)
Phil Cook, jr. (17 games, 7-8-0, .887 SV%, 3.07 GAA)
Evan Karambelas, so. (1 game, 0-0-1, 1.000 SV%, 0.00 GAA)
Stephon Williams, fr.