For two games last weekend, senior defenseman Melanie Greene saw her University of Vermont women’s hockey games through a new facemask: that of a goaltender.
It was a revealing and frightening perspective, even if her view of UVM’s two wins over Union was only from the bench.
Greene’s willingness to suit up in the pads was an example of her “team first” approach to the sport, agreeing to back up starter Kristen Olychuck after the Catamounts’ other goalies, Caitlin Whitlock and Ilana Friedman, were sidelined with injuries.
Whitlock has yet to practice as the result of a lower back issue. Friedman went down, literally, when a teammate’s shot in practice struck her in the forehead. She suffered a minor concussion.
That left coach Tim Bothwell and his staff scrambling for alternatives since a team must have two goaltenders dressed and ready to play at the start of a game. Since Greene wasn’t scheduled to play the first game against Union, he turned to her.
“Tim approached me and said we’re in a pinch and wanted to know how (I) would feel about dressing as backup goalie,” Greene said. “It was something I never thought I would do here in my four years here, but I did.
“I just kind of went with it,” she said, adding she wondered, “Is he serious?
“I said to him, ‘Team first.’ If that’s what needs to be done for the team, then I’ve got to do it and no questions asked.”
“She didn’t hesitate for a second. She said, ‘Team first; they need me; I’m going to do it’,” confirmed Bothwell, who briefly toyed with the idea of cancelling the last practice out of concern something might befall Olychuck.
The first challenge was strapping on all the equipment she had never worn.
“Thankfully, Ilana … came in and I had the pads on. I asked how I did and she said, ‘You did all right. You did fine’,” Greene said. “The toughest part was putting my jersey on. Once all the equipment was on, I was stuck and I needed someone to help me out there. It got hung up on my pads and I had to ask some teammates to help me out.”
Then came the warm-ups.
“I took actually a few shots out there,” Green said. “I just stood in front of the net and hoped my size would take up the net and they’d maybe hit me.”
It was, she said, a terrifying few minutes.
“I think I closed my eyes on every shot,” she said. “I have huge new respect for goalies. They definitely take huge punishment every day out there. I’ll make sure to keep my shots lower now.”
In Friday’s tight 2-0 win, Greene wanted nothing to do with ice time.
“It was, ‘Don’t let anything happen’,” she said.
“The thought crossed my mind (Saturday). We’re up 4-1, maybe (coach) will throw me in for the tailend of the game,” she said, adding, “If he did say that, I think I probably still would have panicked.”
She stayed on the bench.
Greene will be back at her normal position this weekend when UVM hosts fourth-ranked Clarkson on Friday at 7 and Saturday at 4 p.m. Friedman has been cleared to play and Greene’s goaltending career is just a memory she’ll always have.