When it comes to the NCAA, a goaltender in hockey is similar to a quarterback in football: Find a great one and the wins will often outweigh the losses. This season, the Robert Morris Colonials have found a great one.
Frank Marotte, the program’s all-time winningest goaltender, transferred to Clarkson, briefly leaving the position up in the air. But Justin Kapelmaster has formidably replaced Marotte, as the senior is making the most of a second chance following a transfer from Ferris State over the summer.
Kapelmaster is now among the best netminders early into the 2019-20 season and is showing the Colonials just what top-tier goaltending can do.
Atlantic Hockey doesn’t always boast the same NHL-bound talent as other conferences, typically lending to the proverbial level playing field that has seen three different conference winners over the past four seasons.
Those respective conference winners have gone on to be the lone AH representative in the NCAA Tournament. Irrespective of seeding, the lone AH rep has advanced in each of the past three National Tournaments, including ousting the top seed for two consecutive years.
Having won three of their past four, the Colonials’ 3-3 overall record (3-1 conference) has been largely due to Kapelmaster and his confidence-building play.
Kapelmaster put together a solid freshman season with Ferris State in 2016-17 with a 10-4-3 record built on a 2.22 goals against average and .930 save percentage. In each of the next two seasons, his starts declined in conjunction with his overall numbers.
Now, just five games into his second chance with the Colonials, the 23-year-old sits among the top of every goaltending category. Kapelmaster leads all netminders with 189 saves and is tied for the lead with two shutouts. His .964 SV% places him second, while he’s fifth in both minutes played and a 1.38 GAA.
Considering a slow start to the offensive side for the Colonials — who are averaging just two goals per game — Kapelmaster’s strong start, along with a packed schedule, has helped them build a six-point cushion for first place in AH.
Regardless of the long season that lies ahead, Kapelmaster’s maintenance of his current status among his peers will help the Colonials’ chances at their second-ever NCAA bid — and first since 2013-14.
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