UNH's Jeff Wyer: Senior Goalie and Alternate Captain
|UNH Senior Goalie Jeff Wyer|
UNH fans watching the exhibition game against Acadia University Saturday night may have been mildly surprised by who started in goal for the Wildcats. The first sign that something was different came during warmups. Jeff Wyer, the senior and Alternate Captain for 2013-14, was the first of UNH's three goalies to take shots in each pregame drill - the position traditionally reserved for the starting goalie. Introduction of the starting lineups confirmed what some had noticed - Jeff Wyer, not Casey DeSmith, would start the game in goal.
Last season as a sophomore, DeSmith started every regular season and tournament game except for one. Early in the season, DeSmith's play in goal was arguably the best in the NCAA. He finished the season with the third best goals against average and fifth best save percentage among all Hockey East goalies. He was named UNH's MVP and was a Hockey East Honorable Mention All-Star.
In the 6-3 victory over Acadia, Jeff Wyer played in the first period and 12 and 1/2 minutes into the second. He shut out the Axemen and made saves on all 13 shots on goal - at least a couple from point blank range (see highlight video below). Casey DeSmith played the remainder of the game, faced 15 shots on goal, and made 12 saves. It's interesting to note that in the exhibition game at the beginning of last season, DeSmith started and played the first period and a half and Wyer played in the second half of the game. Each allowed one goal in the 5-2 win over St. Francis Xavier.
As a general rule, hockey fans love a starting goalie debate - Luongo vs Schneider, Thomas vs Rask, etc. But not so fast - Wyer starting this year's exhibition game instead of DeSmith may be completely irrelevant when it comes to predicting who will start games in the future. Maybe Wyer got the start as a gesture of respect for his status as a senior and Alternate Captain. Maybe DeSmith was not feeling 100% during the pregame. Heck, maybe they flipped a coin.
On the other hand, I wonder whether the UNH coaching staff plans to platoon DeSmith and Wyer, at least in the beginning of the season. Although Wyer has only played in 7 regular season games in his first three years at UNH and started in 2 of them, he has played particularly well at times. Early in the 2011-12 season, UNH had failed to earn a point when it headed out to St. Cloud State for a pair of games in November. St. Cloud won the opener 7-5 and Wyer replaced Matt DiGirolamo after DiGi gave up 5 goals over the first two periods. Wyer started the second game against St. Cloud and backstopped a 3-3 tie. Wyer then suffered a knee injury, which required surgery, and he missed the remainder of the 2011-12 season.
Last season, Wyer lead UNH to one of the most memorable comebacks in team history. On a Thankgiving trip to Colorado, UNH tied Colorado College the first night then faced Denver University. After Casey DeSmith gave up three goals early in the first period, Wyer got the nod. He made 18 saves on 19 shots the rest of the way and the Wildcats stormed back for a 6-4 win.
In January, Wyer replaced DeSmith during two more games after UNH surrendered early leads. Against Boston College, Wyer made saves on all 8 shots in the final period and against Providence, he stopped 10 shots and surrendered 2 goals. In his only start of the season, Wyer made 31 saves in a hard-fought 3-2 loss at Merrimack.
Here are some highlights of #35 Jeff Wyer's performance against Acadia University: