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The Puck Stops Here

The following article appeared in the Times Herald-Record on Feb. 14, 2008 and was written by Ken Mcmillan. Click here to view full article.

WEST POINT, N.Y. - The hottest college hockey goalie in the nation wears an Army uniform.

Josh Kassel has not lost a game in his last seven starts. He has allowed just five goals during the stretch and posted back-to-back shutouts. His stalwart play has helped vault Army from seventh place to one point out of first place in Atlantic Hockey.

"I can't remember a time when I had a stretch like this,'' said Kassel, a junior. "It's been a good run.''

The top goalies in the league will allow about 2.25 goals per game Kassel's goals-against during the streak is 0.71. He has stopped 177 of the last 182 shots he's faced for a save percentage of .973 the top netminders will stop under .920.

Brian Riley has been around the Army hockey program since he was born, and the current head coach is impressed with what he's seen from Kassel.

"This has been as good as any (Army) goalie has played during this stretch,'' Riley said. "Every game he has been in a zone that we don't even worry about our goaltending right now.''

Kassel's recent play has vaulted him to first in the league and 10th nationally in goals-against average (2.07) four goalies ahead of him and four ranked not far behind him are already NHL draft picks. His save percentage of 91.8 percent ranks No. 2 league-wide and 22nd nationally. His winning percentage of .571 (11-8-2) is second in the league and 25th in the nation.

Only one other goalie in the nation has a longer unbeaten streak North Dakota senior Jean-Philippe Lamoureux won eight in a row before posting a 1-1 tie in his last start. But Lamoureux's stats during his last seven games (1.26 GAA, .926) fall short of Kassel.

"I can't really complain,'' Kassel said. "I have been playing pretty well for the last seven games and (my teammates) have been giving me a lot of help. They are giving me a chance to make every save.''

The streak started in an unusual way. Kassel had just lost a 3-0 game to Canisius on Jan. 18, and he was sure Riley who was rotating the starts in search of a hot hand in net was going to turn to one of his younger netminders, Jay Clark and Joey Spracklen, for the next day's start. Kassel had a meeting with Riley and asked that he be given another opportunity to win the job back. Riley pondered the decision overnight and gave Kassel the nod, making sure to tell his goalie he better get the job done.

Kassel stopped 22 of 23 Canisius shots the next night as Army won 2-1. Satisfied with what he saw, Riley returned to his old ways of riding the hot goalie, and Kassel did not disappoint.

Air Force was next and Kassel posted two more 2-1 victories, stopping 58 of 60 shots.

"There were a lot of shots in both games, and to come from behind in both games was pretty amazing, and just being in an Air Force series is always unbelievable,'' Kassel said.

Next up was Connecticut, the team that handed Kassel a 4-1 loss in late December. He allowed one goal on 16 shots in the first game and then stopped all 26 shots the next night for his first shutout of the season.

Holy Cross next visited West Point and Kassel stopped all 29 shots for his second consecutive shutout. His shutout streak reached 160 minutes, 46 seconds before Brodie Sheahan scored a power-play goal in the first period last Saturday. That was Kassel's only mistake on 28 shots as Army rallied for a 1-1 tie.

Kassel said it was hard not to think of the shutout streak while it was ongoing to stay loose, Kassel said he would sing the lyrics of the songs playing over the public address system to himself, out of earshot of his teammates.

"I'm definitely not heading for American Idol,'' Kassel laughed.

 

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