Who would have thought that Mike Spillane, at this stage of his career, wold be the two-time Hockey East defensive player of the week this season?
That’s not a comment on Spillane’s ability; rather, it’s a question arising from his history.
As a freshman and sophomore, Spillane spent most University of Vermont games watching workhorse veteran Joe Fallon repel pucks for the Catamounts.
As a junior, Spillane finally got his shot at being UVM’s No. 1 man in the crease. Instead, between Spillane’s erratic play and injuries, freshman Rob Madore put the Catamounts on his back and carried them all the way to the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals.
So when this season begin, the job was clearly Madore’s to lose and Spillane faced the prospect of spending much of his final year in a Vermont uniform tending the bench door again.
Instead, Madore has struggled, his difficulties compounded by a veteran defense also not playing up to its potential. He’s 2-4-1 in seven starts with a goals against average of 3.73 and a save percentage of .879. Both are well off his rookie marks of 2.32 and .912.
Spillane’s offseason surgery, a suspension for violation of team rules and illness, coupled with Vermont’s weird first-semester schedule, kept Spillane on the bench until he made a heroic return with his first career shutout, 3-0 over Providence. He was named the HEA’s defensive player of the week.
He came off the bench in the first Boston College game last weekend and fared no better than Madore, but he responded with a 3-2 win that again earned him HEA defensive player of the week honors.
This season, Madore is 2-0-0 with a 2.14 GAA and a .931 save percentage; his career marks are 12-6-5, 2.81 and .893.
Spillane has earned the start in UVM’s next game against streaking Massachusetts on Tuesday at The Gut. After that, who knows? Certainly Madore will play, but if Spillane keeps making saves and winning games, maybe the senior will make his final year a memorable one for himself and the Catamounts.