Domo Arigato, Mr. Ro-Massa-o
Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 08:02
When Ryan Massa suited up to start in net for UNO’s exhibition against the U.S. Under-18 Team, the consequences may not have been clear. According to NCAA rules, any student-athlete past freshman year surrenders his or her redshirt for participation in an exhibition game.
Thus, Massa’s time between the pipes just weeks after rejoining the program means he is now officially using his second year of college eligibility.
“It’s a tough decision to make, but I felt like I’ve played well in practice,” Massa said after 40 minutes of work on Saturday which saw him surrender one goal and stop 27-of-28 shots. “Coach (Blais) came up to me and gave me the opportunity to play tonight and for me it was just a game to get back into the swing of things.”
Massa’s re-addition to the roster also has consequences for Wisconsin, Minnesota-Duluth and whomever the Mavs may face in the post season. Although John Faulkner tied Dan Ellis’ school record with his 53rd career win at Anchorage last weekend, Massa has arguably been a more consistent goaltender in his career.
In Massa’s freshman year he emerged as UNO’s top goaltender late in the season. Although the Mavs dropped five of his final eight starts, the losing streak at the end of the season had more to do with goal support than it did play in net.
Massa was 2-5-1 in his final eight starts, but during that time he also put up a .920 save percentage and a 2.50 goals against average. Out of UNO’s final 16 games, Massa started in goal for 10 of them.
For the season Massa had a combined 7-8-1 record with a .914 save percentage and a 2.60 GAA. The Mavs two other goaltenders, Faulkner and Dayn Belfour, had seven wins between them, 10 losses, four ties and an average GAA of 2.74 and an .894 save percentage in 2012.
“It was kind of very matter-of-fact,” Massa said about how much time he spent deciding if he wanted to come back to the team full-time this late in the season. “We had different meetings this week and Coach Blais asked me what my thoughts were about playing. I came to him a couple weeks ago even, and was just kind of putting the bug in his ear. [I said] hey I wanna contribute, I want to be part of this team again [and] make a hard run with it.”
Massa’s decision to officially become a sophomore with just four games left in the season helps stabilize what has recently been a tumultuous time in the Maverick goal. Although Faulkner tied Ellis 10 days ago, and backup Dayn Belfour earned his first shutout of the season the night before, both have had to be pulled in recent games.
Faulkner was pulled after North Dakota scored three goals before The Battles on Ice was barely 10 minutes old. Belfour was pulled the night after his shutout when Anchorage took a 3-1 lead 5:37 into the second period.
“We’ve talked about it as a coaching staff, Assistant Coach Troy Jutting said Saturday night. “Ryan has practiced extremely hard and practiced extremely well. Obviously we’re in a situation here with two weekends to go the league where we have an opportunity still to do some great things in the league.” “We wanted to see where we were at with our three goaltenders, so that was our decision and Ryan wanted to play. It was Ryan’s decision, not to play tonight, but it was Ryan’s decision whether or not he wanted to play this year and take the redshirt off.”
Massa returned to the team the first day of the semester after initially announcing he would take a season off at the end of last year. He indicated last July he would be leaving the team temporarily due to personal reasons.
But Massa’s mind was always with his teammates. Though he was away from the Mavs, Massa trained with the Omaha Lancers and worked a full-time job.
A few months after Massa announced his decision, Anthony Stolarz, a second round NHL Draft Pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, came to campus and seemed to carry the title of “goaltender of the future”. Stolarz didn’t last through winter break, choosing to begin his professional career with the London (Ontario) Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. Though UNO still had Faulkner and Belfour on the roster, Belfour had yet to see any time in goal. His first appearance came in a 2-1 loss to North Dakota on Feb. 8.