Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Three Grand For Phinney

Great news, everyone.

You know what's one month from today? That's right. It's opening day for Princeton lacrosse.

The women host Temple at 1. The men host NJIT at 3. Make your plans now to be there.

Actually, lacrosse season starts for men on Feb. 2, which is two weeks from tomorrow. The first game will be Vermont at Furman.

There will be 41 Division I men's lacrosse games played before Princeton-NJIT. Or 66 games, if you count the 25 that will be played on Feb. 18 alone before the Tigers game against NJIT begins.
If it seems early to you, it is. There was a time when college lacrosse didn't start until March 1 at the earliest, and the subject of the early start is one of the biggest issues in the game now.

The newest team in Division I men's lacrosse this year is Cleveland State. The Vikings, coached by former Princeton assistant coach Dylan Sheridan, play their first game Feb. 4 against Michigan, and the inaugural schedule includes teams like Denver, Duke, Air Force, Virginia, Penn State - and Sacred Heart.

TigerBlog Jr. started practice with Sacred Heart earlier this week, and most of Division I has already begun preparations for the season. Ivy League schools don't start until Feb. 1, which is the right time, at least according to TigerBlog.

As you may recall, TigerBlog Jr. is a goalie. He and his friend Jared were at the Princeton-Cornell men's hockey game Friday night, and TB asked the two of them if they thought being a goalie in one sport translated into being a goalie in other sports.

In other words, are there common traits to being a goalie in lacrosse, hockey, soccer, field hockey?

TigerBlog would suggest that yes, there are common attributes. You know, like maybe goalies don't want to have to run (or skate) as much as non-goalies. It's also possible that they all got their starts the same way - the team didn't have a goalie and needed one and they either volunteered or were volunteered. They also need to be a bit, uh, what's the word - nuts, to stand in the goal and have a ball or a puck fired at them.

There are differences between the sports, of course. For instance, in soccer, the ball is much bigger and softer (not soft, just softer), but the goal is gigantic compared to the other ones.

Still, it takes a special personality to be the goalie. There's the one main similarity that all goalies must have to be successful. They have to be leaders. They have to embrace being the one in charge of the defense, the one who directs all the traffic. They have to take command from start to finish, in constant communication.

Actually here's another - they need short memories. When TBJ first started playing goalie, one of his first coaches taught him how to say "no memory" in Latin. If you give up a goal, it can't stay with you - or you'll give up others.

Anya Gersoff probably has as interesting a take on the position as anyone. Gersoff, who graduated last year, was the goalie on the field hockey team and a 79-goal scorer in lacrosse.

Can this be usual? Can you have the mentality of a scorer in one sport and goalie in another? Does it help you to be able to look at the game from the point of view of both the scorer and the goalie?

This past weekend was a big one for one Princeton goalie.

Colton Phinney broke the 34-year-old Princeton record for saves in a career in men's hockey Friday night and then surpassed the 3,000-save mark Saturday night. That's a lot of pucks that have been thrown at him in his four years.

In addition to the career total, Phinney made 1,058 saves a year ago, which is the school single-season record. He heads into exam break with 3,005 saves for his career and, with at least 11 games to go and with an average of just under 30 saves per game, he could put the record out of reach for a long time.

The first of Princeton's 11 games, by the way, will be Jan. 28 (a Saturday), at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia (home of the Sixers and Flyers) against a former Princeton coach (Guy Gadowsky). That's a lot of parenthesis, by the way.

Princeton will then have eight more league regular-season games and at least two playoff games, possibly even at home, depending how those eight games go.

Phinney's 3,005 saves are extraordinary. There aren't too many Princeton athletes who have ever gotten more than 3,000 of anything.

Certainly not points. Not goals. Not rebounds, assists or steals. Not attempts.

About the the only thing that TB can think of is yards. There have been two running backs (rushing) and 11 quarterbacks (passing) who have more than 3,000 career yards.

Other than that, who else has gotten to 3,000? Is TB missing anyone?

And as far as 3,000 of something, that's 3,000 (actually 3,005) times that an opposing player has shot a hard rubber puck that would have gone in the goal had Phinney not stopped it first. With his stick. Or blocker. Or body. Or head. Or anything else.

Would you want to do that even once?

Congratulations to Colton Phinney on his accomplishment. The common denominator for goalies?

It's not easy to be one.

Oh, and it's really, really not easy to be the parent of one. TigerBlog can vouch for that.

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