South Report: Goalie tandem saving the day in Wichita Falls
by Zach Duncan | NAHL.com
When college coaches ask Mark LeRose who the Wichita Falls Wildcats’ No. 1 goalie is, he doesn’t hesitate to answer.
Unfortunately, the response doesn’t provide a definitive answer to the question.
“Depends on what day it is,” said LeRose, the first-year Wichita Falls coach. “It’s a great situation to be in. We have a No. 1 and a No. 1A.”
The emergence of netminders Tyler Green and Eric Garavaglia is one of the biggest reasons the Wildcats (12-4-2) sit in second place in the NAHL South.
During Wichita Falls’ last-place South finish a year ago, the team allowed a league-worst 4.33 goals a game. The Wildcats used a revolving door of goaltenders, and none of the six have a save percentage better than .900.
This year the Wildcats’ goals-against-average has dropped sharply to a 2.78 - second lowest in the South only to the Texas Tornado - with the Junior A newcomers in net.
“Both have bright futures ahead of them,” LeRose said. “Every scouting report I got said that these were two of the strongest goalies at the Midget level, and I think they will continue to get better.”
Green played four of a possible five games for the Wildcats starting on Oct. 7, but Garavaglia’s strong play has earned him more ice time. The Illinois native has started in three of the team’s last five outings.
“Tyler has been No. 1 early in the season, but over the past two weeks, Eric may have won the position,” LeRose said.
For now, at least. If the trend continues, get ready for Green to reel off some impressive showings between the pipes.
Garavaglia (5-1-0) owns a goals-against-average of 2.25, which is tied for seventh among NAHL goaltenders. His .931 save percentage is fourth best in the league and he also has two shutouts.
But Green (6-3-2) doesn’t lag far behind in those statistical areas. His 2.89 goals-against-average and .908 save percentage qualify among the league leaders.
“Tyler has a very calm demeanor; he doesn’t get rattled,” LeRose said. “He’s big (6-foot-3), and it’s tough to get pucks past him. He’s very efficient.
“Eric is one of the most competitive guys on our team at any position. He hates to get scored against.”
Division I colleges have expressed interest in both Green, a 1991-born, and Garavaglia, who is a year younger.
The competition between the two only makes them better. And while they push each other in practice, the road roommates are friends off the ice.
“They realize they’re both good and they are going to get an opportunity,” LeRose said. “You never know what kind of relationship your goalie tandem will have, but they both want each other to do well.”
SOUTH DIVISION NOTEBOOK
AMARILLO BULLS: With a victory on Saturday night, Amarillo goaltender Nikifor Szczerba continues to lead the NAHL in wins with 11. He also lowered his goals-against-average to 2.22, which puts him fifth in that category. Szczerba also sits second in shutouts and shootout wins.
CORPUS CHRISTI ICERAYS: Even though the IceRays lost 5-4 Friday night to Wichita Falls, they netted a flurry of goals in a hurry. Mike Benedict, Kevin Crowe and Ben Hughes scored in a 6:22 span. Corpus Christi also acquired 18-year-old defenseman Nikita Kardashev, a 185-pound defenseman who represented his native Belarus in the 18U World Junior Championships.
NEW MEXICO MUSTANGS: The Mustangs snapped a seven-game losing streak Sunday with a 3-2 victory over the Wildcats. Brad Wilhelm scored his first two goals of the season against Wichita Falls, including the game-winner with 3:03 left to play.
TEXAS TORNADO: The Tornado couldn’t be beaten in October, going a perfect 10-0 in the month after a pair of one-goal victories against Wenatchee. Goaltender Jimmy Kruger also remains perfect for the season, improving to 8-0 with a league-best 1.63 goals-against-average.
TOPEKA ROADRUNNERS: The Roadrunners head into an off-weekend on a high note with a 6-4 win Saturday in Springfield. Topeka received strong weekends from Michael Hill (two goals, two assists) and Justin Hussar (two goals, two assists), giving the team confidence as they prepare for a six-game homestand after playing 12 of their first 16 on the road.