Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Kenny Reiter Cements Spot in UMD History

It was really good to see UMD respond like it did last weekend in Denver.

Down 1-0 after 64 seconds, 2-0 later in the first, and eventually 3-1 in the second period, the Bulldogs had nothing going offensively. Head coach Scott Sandelin decided to mix up UMD's lines, and the changes worked.

UMD scored two power-play goals to force a 3-3 tie Friday. The Bulldogs then used their newly-drawn lines for the entire game Saturday, cruising to a 4-0 win.

The line changes became a bit of a story over the weekend, and justifiably so. For those who didn't hear, Sandelin took Travis Oleksuk off Jack Connolly's line and put him back to center, then moved Caleb Herbert and J.T. Brown to his wings. Connolly now centers Mike Seidel and Joe Basaraba. You can expect to see more of these lines in the Alaska-Anchorage series this weekend.

But equal or greater to all that was the play of senior goalie Kenny Reiter.

After struggling in his first three starts (two losses), Reiter has caught fire as of late. In leading UMD to a six-game unbeaten streak entering this weekend's games, Reiter has posted a .944 save percentage and stopped 151 of 160 shots.

Reiter has shutouts in his last two Saturday appearances, giving him eight for his career. That's one off the school record. He has also taken the top spot all-time in save percentage (.912) and goals against (2.34) entering this weekend, besting former UMD All-American Alex Stalock.

This isn't to say that Reiter is automatically a better goalie or a better NHL prospect than Stalock. They're different goalies with different strengths who played on different teams at UMD. Stalock didn't have the benefit of guys like Connolly, Connolly, Fontaine, Oleksuk, or others for most of his UMD starts. The 2007-2008 team he started for was one of the worst offensive teams UMD has ever had, and Stalock kept them in virtually every game they played.

Reiter, meanwhile, has a ring, which counts for something. He's been pretty consistent, and he's worked his way up to this job. He didn't have Stalock-ian hype coming in, and when he eventually earned the right to start most of the games for UMD, it came after virtually everyone assumed that someone else would take the job and hold it for a couple years.

He's at his best when he's fighting through screens to see the puck, and he's become quite capable of playing the puck, even if he'll never be able to hold a candle to the never-boring Stalock in that department.

Instead of just accepting his fate as a backup, Reiter established himself as at least an equal to Brady Hjelle from the start of the 2009-2010 season. By year's end, he was far and away UMD's best option in goal, getting the call in the WCHA playoffs against Colorado College and in the Final Five against North Dakota. That last game -- a 2-0 loss -- might have been Reiter's best of the season. UMD could do little offensively, but were in a scoreless draw deep into the third period thanks to Reiter's stout play in net. Hjelle transferred to Ohio State, where he isn't exactly stinking up the joint early in the season (.938 save percentage in three games).

If Reiter can keep up his current level of play, he will hold three major UMD career goaltending records (save percentage, goals against, shutouts) when he's done at the end of this season. He will also become the men's hockey program's first-ever four-time WCHA Scholar Athlete.

It's hard not to be impressed by that.

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