Guy Gadowsky’s Goalie Rotation Continues To Defy The Norm With Mixed Results
In its four years as an NCAA Division I program, Penn State men’s hockey has established an identity manifested in abundant shots-on-goal and a multiple-goalie rotation.
The team’s unusual volume of shots tends to capture more attention, but the goalie situation is just as remarkable. Less than six minutes separate men’s hockey goalies Eamon McAdam (238:48) and Matthew Skoff (233:22) in regards to ice time this season.
Although he is badgered at virtually every press conference, coach Guy Gadowsky stands by his unique goalie rotation. “It’s not about a permanent starting position, it’s about a great win for the team,” he maintained after Penn State defeated Notre Dame on Oct. 17.
It’s glaringly obvious that Gadowsky’s the-more-the-merrier mentality isn’t going anywhere. Still, I can’t help but wonder if the shared ice time is a balanced reflection of two equally skilled goalies or if it’s hindering the development of one. Penn State’s 4-2-2 early-season record doesn’t make a compelling argument for change, but do McAdam and Skoff’s individual performances tell a different story?
So far, McAdam and Skoff split this season’s starts equally with four each. Freshman goalie Chris Funkey accounts for the six-minute disparage in playing time. He stepped in after Skoff’s deflating early third period in Penn State’s 7-4 loss to Notre Dame.
To be fair, game outcomes barely scratch the surface of a goalie’s ability, but we have to start somewhere. McAdam has tended goal for three wins (Canisius, Notre Dame, AIC) and one loss (St. Lawrence) so far. In these games, he has managed to save 111 of 122 shots fired at him for a .910 save percentage. Skoff has tallied one win (AIC), one loss (Notre Dame), and two ties (St. Lawrence, Niagara). He’s faced a notably smaller number of shots at 94, saving 81 for an .862 save percentage. It’s not completely telling to compare 122 shots against to 94, but percentages alone suggest McAdam has a slight edge.
While difficult to pinpoint, timing and nature of saves are far more indicative of goalie performance. Penn State had a highly offensive presence in its 5-3 win against Notre Dame, but McAdam’s 30 saves against the historical powerhouse Irish cannot be ignored. Most importantly, his saves were clutch and timely considering the call-and-response nature of the close game. Skoff’s performance against the same team was adulterated by a more lackluster Penn State offense that allowed Notre Dame 15 minutes of puck possession. That said, he still allowed seven Notre Dame goals before Gadowsky pulled him for Funkey. Gadowsky isn’t trigger-happy with pulls to begin with, so the fact that he elected to switch goalies at all indicates Skoff’s responsibility for the disheartening loss.
McAdam was decidedly less dominant in Penn State’s 5-3 win against AIC. In the first six minutes of the game, he allowed two goals against the 1-9-0 team. Offensive dominance and pressure from Eric Scheid saved McAdam throughout the game. McAdam was shaky for the duration, and AIC capitalized whenever it managed to squeeze into its offensive zone. Although Penn State blew AIC out 8-3 with Skoff in net, his game was jaw-dropping in both positive and negative connotations. His first period featured flashy, Pegula-riling saves. Offense gifted him a quiet second period, and he was set up for a shutout. Penn State’s 6-0 lead would fall to 8-3, though, as Skoff let one understandable and two soft goals in. Although 8-3 calls for a celebration, the crowd left Pegula feeling puzzled about Skoff’s goaltending.
Again, Gadowsky’s rotation is staying put. There’s no way to tell what would happen if he decided on a permanent starter. His system might be for the best, anyways; the college hockey season is packed with back-to-back games that would put stress on any primary goalie. Both McAdam and Skoff are confusing, with a heartbreaking goal allowed for every highlight-reel save, but early-season showings suggest McAdam’s game would flourish in a more secure starting position.