By Craig Degel
Arizona Daily Wildcat
There is a certain amount of satisfaction that comes from being the goaltender for the Arizona Icecats.
After all, Icecats fans aren't very kind to the guy defending the other goal.
Imagine being a visiting goalie and having to listen to choruses of, "He shoots! He scores! Hey goalie, you suck!" every time you get scored upon, as Icecats fans chant each time their team scores. Just hearing it once would be one time too many, and the Icecats have been known to score as many as 14 or 15 goals a game.
Yes, it must be nice to be the home goalie at the Tucson Convention Center. Unless, of course, you're following one of the most popular players from last year's Icecats team. That's the story for freshman goalie Joel Hilshey.
Originally from Danvers, Mass., the 5-foot-9, 175-pound Hilshey transferred to Arizona from Wake Forest during the second half of last season, spending time behind popular goalie Dennis Hands. He played in three games and had a 1.92 goals-against average. It was an experience that helped him prepare for the goalie war that took place between him and newcomer Kevin Keady.
"There's always competition," said Hilshey, who is still considered a freshman because he saw so little playing time last season. "But it's healthy competition."
Keady came in with good credentials, having been the goaltender for Loyola Academy, the '94-95 Illinois state high school champions. In fact, it was Keady who started the first game of this season, a 14-3 victory over Stanford. Hilshey was in the goal the next night and notched a 13-5 win.
But after Keady allowed three goals on 17 shots against Colorado, the door flew open for Hilshey to earn the number one spot.
"The goalie position was his to win," Icecat coach Leo Golembiewski said.
If you are trying to earn a job as goalie, a shutout would be the best way to do it.
Hilshey stopped all 17 shots he faced on Saturday night to defeat the Buffaloes 5-0, upping his personal record to 2-0 with a save percentage of .897. It was the first shutout by an Icecat goalie in over a year.
"He did a great job," Golembiewski said. "He's taken over the number one spot. He has pretty well earned the start against Delaware (tonight)."
Hilshey said he was unaware he was the first goalie to have a shutout in such a long stretch of time, but he was happy to pull it off.
"With just 17 shots you have to stay on your toes," Hilshey said.
For his efforts, Hilshey was named the player of the game. While Golembiewski said Hilshey had earned the start against Delaware tonight, he was still uncertain as to who would start against Navy on Saturday.
"I don't see it as negative competition," Hilshey said. "If it's what's best for the team than I'll do it."
Should he perform well on the East Coast, Hilshey may return to TCC as truly the number one goaltender and will not have to stay in the weekend goalie rotation with Keady.
Most importantly for Hilshey, however, would be coming home with the victories that are the fruits of good goaltending.
"Colorado State is tough as nails," Golembiewski said of the Icecats' next home opponent. "We've got to play loose."
The Rams may be tough as nails, but if you're Joel Hilshey, there's no place like home.
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