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No matter which mask, Savory excelling for RPI

No matter which mask, Savory excelling for RPI

Goalie has helped Engineers get in position to gain home ice for the ECAC Hockey playoffs, with one regular season weekend left
No matter which mask, Savory excelling for RPI
Freshman goalie Owen Savory has started the last 12 games for the RPI men's hockey team.
Photographer: NED SYKES/RPI PHOTO

TROY -- Owen Savory shifted across his crease, and the shot off a Quinnipiac stick was "when the appearance of conflict meets the appearance of force."

That's a line from "Grace, Too," the opening track on the 1996 Tragically Hip record "Day for Night."

It also turned into the moment when RPI's freshman goalie could no longer wear his treasured facemask with the custom-painted image of Gord Downie, the Tragically Hip's late lead singer, on the backplate. The puck smashed into the chinguard, rendering the mask no longer safe to use.

"As a goalie, you get lots of shots to areas you don't want to get shots to," Savory said with a grin on Wednesday morning after practice in preparation for big home games against Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend.

In head coach Dave Smith's second season at RPI, the Engineers have been showing glimmers of improvement in the second half of this season and are on the bubble of gaining home ice for the first round of the ECAC Hockey playoffs, if they stack up some points this weekend, and Union and Colgate do not.

A big part of being in that position has been the sometimes spectacular play of their freshman goalie from Cambridge, Ontario, where Downie, who suffered from terminal brain cancer and died in 2017, and his alt-rock band are much beloved in Canada, and to some degree in the U.S., too.

Savory was forced to go with a plain white goalie mask after his Gord Downie one, which also was adorned with a Canadian flag and his nickname "Saves" on the back.

He has continued to distinguish himself with his play, even if his facemask is no longer part of that.

"Coming in, every player sets goals," Savory said. "We have team goals, but I think personal goals are pretty important.

"Over the summer and from talking to the coaches, there's a realization of where you're fitting into the program. I knew that Linden [Marshall] had a big year for us last year, and even at the beginning of this year, he was awesome. I continued to set those personal goals and have been pretty fortunate to be in the net."

In the first half of the season, Savory and Marshall, a sophomore, split time, but Savory has better numbers -- 2.23 goals against average and .934 save percentage -- and has been in net for RPI's last 12 games.

He lost in an overtime shootout to Union in the Mayor's Cup on Jan. 29, but was congratulated by Smith in the tunnel to the locker room for his first college shutout, after the teams played to a 0-0 tie. Savory made 43 saves, his third 40-plus game since Dec. 29.

"That was a pretty special game for me and the whole team," Savory said. "It's a game we circle on our calendar. And it was an unbelievable hockey game, back and forth. Disappointed we didn't get to raise the Cup at the end of the game, but the boys left it all out there.

"The difficult part was that was in the middle of a big week for us. We had five games in nine days, and that was a huge part of why we started to do so well after that. We had a huge weekend after that."

The Engineers are 3-2-2 since the Mayor's Cup, with wins over Colgate, Princeton and Cornell.

Savory is 1-1-0 in facemask preservation.

He said he used to customize the backplate with a fire company crest in honor of his father, who is a firefighter, but decided to do something a little different with the Gord Downie one.

"Growing up in Ontario, my family was a big fan of him, and as I got older, I was listening to him, whether it was in the car on the way to hockey or anything like that, it was always on, and it was somebody I knew of," Savory said. "Having him on there, he's a pretty big icon.

"When I first got it, a lot of them [American teammates] were asking who he was, and I think I've done a good job of letting them know, getting them turned on to the music a little bit.

"I like to keep it simple, but that was an awesome piece."

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