Sophomore goaltender Richard Shipman only played eight times in his first 56 games with the Stony Brook hockey team, but has started six of eight since Dec. 8.
“After the two NYU games, I knew I was going into break on a strong note,” Shipman said. “I hoped that it would help me to get the first shot to take that over.”
Shipman’s opportunity came under undesirable circumstances, when sophomore starting goaltender Payne Yoder sustained a lower body injury in practice which sidelined him for a few weeks. Since moving into the number one roll, Shipman has stopped 91 percent of shots and earned a shutout against the University of Colorado Buffaloes, the No. 6 team in the nation.
“A bunch of guys know how important this is to me and how much I want this,” Shipman said. “I look around the room before every game and tell myself ‘I’m going to give each and every one of these guys the best chance to win that I can. The past few games going into the third period they’ve said ‘Do it for seven-two, seven-two needs a win.’ That means the absolute world to me.”
Shipman has also received support from Yoder during his time as the number one netminder. Yoder, who describes his relationship with Shipman as “the healthiest of competition,” says that there must be a strong two-man tandem in goal for the team to have sustained success.
“When I can’t be out there, I couldn’t be happier to see him succeed the way he is,” Yoder said. “With or without me in net, we have to win games and keep improving our position in the rankings. It’s never easy being out but it is harder being out if your team is losing without you there, with Ship doing well, mentally it helps me.”
Stony Brook came close to losing Shipman to a similar fate as Yoder last week when he suffered a minor injury against the University of Delaware. Shipman finished the game, but still is playing with some discomfort.
“In the second period of that first Delaware game I pulled my groin,” Shipman said. “It was nothing bad and I was able to pull through it. Penny, our trainer, has helped me get through it tremendously to get through that. I’ll probably just work with her a little more and go about my game the same way.”
Shipman’s focus on staying healthy and playing consistently has been crucial to his success. Another key to his game is being mentally prepared, a process which has led to superstition. Shipman is no stranger to establishing a routine and sticking to it.
“I’ve been very superstitious in the past and I’m trying to go away from it,” Shipman said. “But there’s little things [that I still do]. I know they change the nets [after warm ups] but I just always put my helmet there. Tapping the post is something that I’ve always done to just kind of say ‘I’m here and I’m going to attack the angle.’”
So far the little things have paid big dividends for Shipman, who is 4-2-1 in his last six starts. His compete level has not gone unnoticed by head coach Chris Garofalo, who praised Shipman’s play after a recent win.
“We always knew he was a good goalie, but the fact is he’s been lights-out,” Garofalo said. “He’s helped us so much to right the ship that was going a little wrong. [Our struggles] in Delaware were not his fault and he played amazing. He’s good with his angles, he controls his rebounds, and I’m very proud of him.”
With Yoder still listed as day-to-day, it is possible that Shipman will make his fifth consecutive start when the Seawolves face Syracuse this Friday night at 6:30 p.m. at the Tennity Ice Pavillon. Such a streak would be the longest of any Seawolves goaltender this season.