Don’t call it a battle

RMU goaltenders Shafer and Izyk are splitting time in net

More stories from Haley Sawyer

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Photo by Matt Merlino

This past weekend, the Colonial net at the 84 Lumber Arena had two owners: Terry Shafer and Dalton Izyk.

The story’s been told over and over.  Starting goaltender Shafer suffered a hip injury during play halfway through last season.  Izyk jumped in the game and there was no turning back.  By the end of the season, Izyk had made 288 saves in 11 games.  Shafer had 971 in 35 games.

Fast forward to this past August.  Shafer made a full recovery and was back on the ice, and Izyk was still up to par from the previous year.  A decision has to be made on who will start.

Or a compromise.

For RMU men’s hockey’s opening weekend, the two netminders split the games.  Shafer started on Friday and Izyk on Saturday.  The decision as to who would start each day was an easy one.

“The reason Terry played the first game was because Dalton had class on Friday and Terry didn’t.” said head coach Derek Schooley.  “I talked to them both and I said which way I’m going to go. Dalton said he had class on Friday and he’d prefer to play Saturday.”

“I picked a crappy schedule.  It was my own fault,” said Izyk.  “I guess it worked out in our favor.”

At first glance, it’s easy to call RMU’s circumstances a goalie battle or competition.  But it’s neither.

“Dalton and I have a great friendship.  All along I’ve been saying Dalton and I have a great relationship and it’s true,” said Shafer. “Especially this weekend.  He was telling me things he was picking up between media timeouts and I was trying to do the same for him.”

“I’m there to help him out as much as I can and he’ll do the exact same thing back to me,” echoed Izyk, who is the current AHA goaltender of the week after a 3-0 shutout against Lake Superior State on Saturday.

RMU’s depth in net is not only defined by the two goalies who can confidently assume the starting role, but also by their goaltending style.

The difference is glaring, starting with physical stats.  Shafer is listed as 6-foot-2, while Dalton is a bit shorter at 5-foot-11.

“Terry is more of a blocker while Dalton’s a little more athletic,” said Schooley.  “And they’ve both got a competitive nature that is second to none.”

The former has size and the latter has mobility.  They’ve both got the lateral movement, but Shafer appears impulsive and Izyk calculated.  Shafer has a .909 career save percentage and Izyk .917.

“I try to slow the game down, always try to put the puck up in the netting whenever I can,” said Shafer, who posted 29 saves in Friday’s 3-1 contest.

“I’m more positional,” said Izyk.  “My goalie coach I had in juniors told me to get my chest on everything, so that’s my main goal.”

Shafer can credit his family for the position he’s in now. As a tyke, his brother and cousin strapped pillows to him and used him as a goalie in the driveway.

As for Izyk, he can thank his inability to excel at any other position.

“I wasn’t a great skater, and too many penalties my first game,” said Izyk.  “I was a volunteer goalie.  It was a position that we rotated and it was almost mandated for me to play because I was pretty poor.”

The trend will continue until someone gets a hot hand, however long that may be.

“If I have to play them both all the way through, I’ll play them both all the way through,” said Schooley.  “If at Christmas time, one is playing better than the other, and keeps playing that way, then I’ll go with that, but right now I have all the confidence in the world in both of them.  We’ve got two number one goalies.  The problem is there’s only one net.”