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January 20, 2012

RMU goaltending duo a unique pair

One could easily make the argument that the goaltender is not only the most important position in hockey, but in all of sport. Although that argument may not always come to fruition, it could certainly tread water in any conversation of the sort.

Having a good goaltender is a must to be successful. Having two of exceptional quality is a blessing. For the Colonials, Brooks Ostergard and Eric Levine have been nothing short of exceptional between the pipes.

"We've got two quality goaltenders in both Eric and Brooks," head coach Derek Schooley said. "They work extremely hard and the guys have a lot of confidence in front of them."

Ostergard, a senior, has gotten more starts than his partner Levine, a junior, but they've both made the most of their opportunities.

Levine has made at least 31 saves in his last three contests and is unbeaten since November 5th. Ostergard registered 37 stops in his last outing, and is tied for second in the nation, carrying a .934 save percentage. Levine is also tied for 15th in the nation in that category, making the Colonials the only men's program in the NCAA possessing two goaltenders that rank in the top 15 in save percentage.

For Levine, it's about the way he approaches the game, combined with the efforts of the squad and the competition with Ostergard.

"I'm just feeling more confident and the team has been responding well," the native of Wheeling, Illinois said. "This year has been unique that Brooks and I are both playing at the top of our games, so we're pushing each other."

That pushing consists of helping and mentoring one another on and off the ice, something that Ostergard and Levine make sure to accomplish.

"Eric and I help each other a lot in practice," Ostergard said. "I think we complement each other well, we compete with each other well and we're very good friends off the ice."

That competition is of the healthy variety, something that undoubtedly benefits not only the goaltenders, but the team as a whole.

"When we're on the ice, we're both battling for that number one position," Ostergard said. "Any time we have competition in the equation, I think it brings out the best in both athletes."

"I think they have to push each other on a daily basis in practice but also in games," Schooley said. "You know you want to one up the other one and you don't want give the other one an opening. It's not a butting heads thing between the two goalies. It's 'we want to do what's best for the team, we both want to win and we both want to play well.'"

The strong play of the two netminders also adds confidence and peace of mind for the rest of the team in front of them.

"I think it's crucial," senior captain Trevor Lewis said, on how important it is to have two quality goaltenders. "No matter what the other team is trying to do or what we're trying to do, breakdowns always occur. Anytime you have not only one goalie but two back there who are completely confident, it makes our job a lot easier and lets us play with a little more confidence."

With only 12 games remaining on the docket, all in conference, the duo knows the importance of playing on the top of their game, no matter whose name is called.

"You've got to get better every day and worry about what you can control," Levine said. "I really like our chances. Whoever's in net, whatever lineup we have, I think we've got a good team out there."

Their combined efforts have been strong enough to put the team in a tie for third place in the AHA standings, with plenty of time to rise to the height of the conference.

"They've both done a very good job and they continue to do the job," Schooley said. "You can't ask anything more from them. They've given us a chance to win every night."

TIP-INS

- The Colonials travel to Connecticut this weekend for a two game series against the Huskies. UCONN is tied for third place in the AHA, along with Robert Morris, with 19 points apiece. The puck drops on Friday and Saturday evenings, with both face-offs set for 7:05.

- Ostergard has been nominated for College Hockey's top individual honor, the Hobey Baker Award. You can vote for Ostergard, along with all of the other nominees, by visiting hobeybakeraward.com. Voting runs through March 4, with the winner being announced April 6 at the NCAA Frozen Four in Tampa, Florida.

- Ostergard isn't the only Colonial up for an individual honor; senior forward Furman South has been nominated for the BNY Mellon Wealth Management Hockey Humanitarian Award, a national accolade that is awarded to the college hockey player whose efforts to better their community is recognized. Finalists will be announced at the end of the month, with the winner being honored in April at the Frozen Four.

- The Colonials announced earlier this week that volunteer assistant coach Josh Brown has been promoted to Hockey Operations Coordinator. Brown will retain his role as the team's video coordinator, in addition to now overseeing all off-ice activities. The Ann Arbor, Michigan native will also continue to assist the staff in the day-to-day operation of the team.

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