Opinion: On goalie pulls, less is more, as Eric Lang attests to

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

We have seen many different coaches at the college hockey level have their own philosophies. Before we covered AIC and switched to an underdog-focused model, we were accustomed to seeing goalies in games we covered pulled quickly, almost as if by default if they let in a few quick goals.

Then we learned of a completely different style of this, and it came from, as so many good things do in this game, the Brian Riley Coaching Tree. That is Brian Riley and Eric Lang don’t like to pull their goalie, especially mid period, as a way to “ spark” the team. Both of them have had games this year where a quick goalie pull could have made sense. In Army’s opener they lost 7-0 to Providence, not because of Justin Evenson fighting off grade a looks all game, but because the Friars put Evenson on an island and used their skill to make Army’s new defense group figure things out. Eric Lang himself also doesn’t like switching goalies during periods. When UND scored three quick times against AIC last March, Lang did make a change but at period break to try to get a different energy going in the postseason.

It is the one position in this sport that the game usually needs to be stopped for to make a full change. As such, when the goalie is pulled for a replacement, Lang often worries that it can send a message to the rest of his team that they are absolved of their hockey sins.

He has been proven right in drawing more players to his campus with that doctrine. Given what Alec Calvaruso has gone through with some teams he’s played on in the past, it was refreshing to hear a goalie endorse the philosophy. In addition, whenever we interview players on the losing team when the goalie is pulled mid period, most of them will take responsibility. Usually, skaters don’t get benched for having a bad shift early in the game, and Lang and to some extent Brian Riley, have taken that philosophy to goaltending. Barring injury you only see them change goalies on the rare chance it happens, in between periods as a sign of respect, sign of continuing the fight, and a way to not let the skaters in front of them off the hook. We’d like to see more coaches consider this philosophy at all levels of this great sport.

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