ECAC Hockey Tournament: Dutchmen confident with either Milan or Kinkaid in goal

Most coaches would like to have the situation Union coach Nate Leaman enjoys with his goaltenders. L

Most coaches would like to have the situation Union coach Nate Leaman enjoys with his goaltenders.

Leaman has enormous confidence in his goalies, junior Corey Milan and freshman Keith Kinkaid. Both netminders have played pivotal roles in helping the 15th-ranked Dutchmen reach the ECAC Hockey tournament championship round for the first time.

The third-seeded Dutchmen (20-11-6) face fifth-seeded St. Lawrence (19-14-7) in the 7 p.m. semifinal game Friday at the Times Union Center.

“The rallying call of our team all year is our depth, whether it be in net, on ‘D’ [defense] or forward,” Leaman said. “We’ve had every guy in our lineup step up at one point and contribute for us. The net’s no different. Corey and Keith have been battling it out all year.”

Kinkaid got the majority of the starts this season with 23, compared to Milan’s 14. Kinkaid started Friday’s 3-2, five-overtime loss against Quinnipiac in Game 1 of the quarterfinals. With the game lasting an NCAA-record 150 minutes, 22 seconds, Leaman went with Milan for Game 2. He made 27 saves to help Union to a 3-1 win.

“The decision to go with Corey Saturday night was based upon rest,” Leaman said. “I wanted to come back with the freshest lineup I could to create energy because our team had probably the toughest loss they ever had on Friday night. Corey came in and gave us a lot of energy.”

Leaman stayed with Milan for the deciding game of the series, and he came through with a 30-save effort in Union’s 2-1 win.

“Corey, usually when he wins a game, he’s hot and he comes right back and wins the next game, as well,” Leaman said. “That’s what rolled into that decision. We do have two goalies that are very capable in this league.”

Milan has a 2.06 goals-against average, a .917 save percentage and one shutout this season. But Milan had to get used to playing only half of the games this season after playing in all 39 of Union’s games last year.

“It’s been a little bit different,” said

Milan, who was 19-17-3 with a 2.57 GAA, a .907 save percentage and one shutout last season. “It’s more of a competitive friendship that Keith and I have, and it works. When you have two goalies that go out and compete with each other every day, it makes the both of us better and makes the team strong in that position.”

In order for Milan, who is listed at 5-foot-10, to be successful, he must come out and challenge shooters. When he doesn’t, that is when he is prone to allowing soft goals.

“With my stature, you have to be aggressive, and you’ve got to get out toward pucks,” Milan said. “When I sit back, that’s when I definitely get in trouble. It’s building those aggressive habits in practice, and making sure they’re there on the weekends.”

Kinkaid has an 11-7-3 record with a 2.56 goals-against average, a .908 save percentage and one shutout. In ECACH play, Kinkaid was 10-4-2

with a 2.54 GAA and a .910 save percentage. He was named third-team ECACH all-conference goalie, as well to the all-rookie team. He is a finalist for the Ken Dryden Award as the league’s top goalie and Rookie of the Year.

“We’ve been doing well,” Kinkaid said. “I think I could have done a little better, but the team is a doing great job.”

The 6-3 Kinkaid has shown the ability to bounce back from tough losses.

After a 30-save effort in his first career college start, a 3-1 loss at St. Cloud State Oct. 17, Kinkaid’s Messa Rink debut didn’t go as well a week later. He allowed four goals on 17 shots in the first period, and was replaced by Milan at the start of the second period.

That might have hurt the con­fidence of most freshmen. Not the 20-year-old Kinkaid.

The next time he got to start, he made 20 saves to help Union beat St. Lawrence, 4-3, Nov. 13 in Canton. The next night, he had 18 saves in a 5-1 win at Clarkson.

“It’s always tough to get that first win,” Kinkaid said. “Once you get it, you get the confidence. I got that first win in St. Lawrence, and we’ve been doing well ever since.”

Two other times this season, Kinkaid has had bounce-back games. After giving up three third-period goals in a 4-3 loss to Massachusetts Dec. 29, he stopped 37 shots in a 7-3 triumph over Prince­ton Jan. 8.

“That’s something I always talk about with my goalie coach back home, and my dad,” Kinkaid said. “I’ve just got to get that bounce-back game, and show them what you’re made of.”

While Leaman hasn’t made a decision as to who will start Friday, the players have faith in whoever plays.

“They’re both very good goalies. They’re good in their own ways,” Dutchmen senior defenseman Mike Schreiber said. “We’re confident in playing in front of either one, and we know they have confidence in net, also. And that shows, especially last weekend. When Keith played, like, 2 1⁄2 games Friday night, it’s good to know you have another goalie that can step in immediately and get the job done.”

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