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The University of North Dakota lost two veteran goalies after the 2011-12 season. Senior goaltender Brad Eidsness graduated and junior goalie Aaron Dell decided to forego his senior year of eligibility to start his professional hockey career.
Insert junior goalie Clarke Saunders who’s a transfer from the University of Alabama Huntsville.
Saunders came to UND after the Chargers hockey team announced that it was shutting down operations after the 2011-12 season.
Coming into the season, UND has some questions at the goaltending position. Freshman goaltender Zane Gothberg had no college hockey experience and Clarke Saunders was a veteran goaltender that had played two seasons with a very bad University of Alabama Huntsville team.
Since UAH was shutting down their hockey program, Sanders could transfer to another university and be eligible to play immediately. Saunders decided to transfer to the University of North Dakota.
Coming into this season, it was common knowledge that Saunders had faced a lot of shots playing for the UAH Chargers. During the 2011-12 season; Saunders faced 1013 shots stopping 918 of them for a .906 save percentage and a .372 goals against average. Saunders was one of the bright spots on a team that went 2-28-1.
Playing on a team that is historically known for its tough defensive systems, UND has been a little loose on defense so far this season and Saunders is still facing a lot of shots. In the eight game that Saunders has played for UND this season, the junior goalie has faced 30 or more shots in 5/8 games. In the last two games that Saunders has played in, he has stopped 72/75 shots and recorded two wins.
Saunders has compiling a record of 4-2-2, a goals against average of 2.09 and a save percentage of .934 that is good for first overall in the WCHA.
During the Wednesday press conference Saunders was asked, ‘if would rather face a lot of shots or fewer shots; during the course of a game.’
“It all depends on the game and the type of scoring chances as well, Saunders said. “Sometimes getting a few more shots might kind of ease you into the game a little bit and keep you warm. If you go on droughts without some shots I guess it’s pretty easy to get cold but you just have to stay mentally tough and battle through that. It is what it is, I am a goalie and I kind of have to go with the flow no matter what that might be.”
From watching the game that Saunders has played in this season, it’s no mystery that Saunders gives the UND forwards and defenseman some confidence with his play. The junior goaltender is also a good teammate – that assumes nothing – when he’s not playing; Saunders is cheering on the other goaltenders from the player’s box.
When asked about his about the efforts of his battle tested goalie, senior forward Corban Knight had this to say.
“Yeah Clarkie [Saunders] he’s been a rock this year for us back there right from the beginning,” Knight said. “Its nice having a guy come in that has already that has played a couple of years in college hockey. Where he came from he got a lot of experience. Obviously with a lot of shots and stuff – I think all of the guys have a lot of faith in him and what he can do back there. Just the kind of person he is to – he puts a lot of confidence in you because he holds himself so well – he really works hard on his game trying to get better so that puts a lot of confidence in the defenseman and the forwards all the way through.”
While hockey is a team game, it’s no mystery that UND junior goalie Clarke Saunders has his teammate’s “six” and they’re happy to have him as a teammate.
Originally posted at The Hockey Writers - Combine.