It’s all in the numbers
Madsen backstops Harvard
When it comes to numbers, most hockey players can quote verbatim on goals, assists and points. When you are a statistics major like Harvard goaltender Merrick Madsen, your forte usually involves things like quantitative statistics, applied statistics and theory of statistics.
“Yeah, I usually follow the pairwise,’’ Madsen said this week in reference to the mathematical formula the NCAA uses in selecting the 16-team tournament field that often confounds the public.
The well-rounded Madsen, who has electives in East Asian studies and the History of the Earth, was selected by Philadelphia in the sixth round of the 2013 NHL draft and has elevated his game among the elite college netminders this season.
“He’s had an interesting first two years and I think he’s unique in that he’s devoid of ego. He’s low-key but it’s great to see him playing well,’’ said Harvard coach Ted Donato. “I remember back at the start of the season and he had this lettering on the back of his helmet and I didn’t know what it meant. The letters stood for ‘Not Good Enough’.’’
Last weekend in Providence, Madsen was better than good enough. The Acton, Calif., native was named the NCAA East Regional’s most outstanding player, registering a careerhigh 41 saves in blanking Providence and adding a clutch 27-save performance the following night in turning back Air Force, 3-2.
It was the second consecutive week Madsen was named MOP after Harvard won its 10th ECAC playoff title. That earned the Crimson an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.
“I think that the further back that you go on the ice the more and more mental that it becomes, and I just think it took me a couple of years,” Madsen said. “I think part of it is the confidence that the guys have in me. It kind of lets you relax. When they’re doing well, you don’t feel as much pressure. There’s simply no replication for it (in practice). It just takes time.’’
Madsen, with a .947 save percentage and 1.70 goalsagainst average, has the best marks among the Frozen Four netminders. His 28 wins are the most by a Harvard goalie in a single season.
Madsen started his hockey career as a forward, but after a season without much puck-luck (one goal), he gravitated to the netminding chores. He’s never looked back. Through 64 career games, he has a 4512-5 record with a 2.07 GAA and a .926 SP.
“This year, I came back here in the summer and stayed off the ice more than I normally do because I wanted to get stronger,’’ said Madsen, who is 6-foot5 and 190 pounds.
Despite being drafted, Madsen said education remains paramount in virtually all of his teammates’ minds and he’s even prouder of the seven seniors, who stayed for four years. Those seniors have made appearances in three straight NCAA tournaments.
“I think that Jimmy (Vesey) staying for four years makes you think that if Jimmy stayed then maybe I should stay. I think that he set the program standard,’’ Madsen said.
In next Thursday’s semifinals, Harvard (28-5-2) takes on Minnesota-Duluth (27-6-7). The teams have not met since 1996.
“Minnesota-Duluth has had an unbelievable year,” Madsen said. “They’ve been right there with us all year in the pairwise. I feel that they are a mirror image of ourselves.”
‘I think he’s unique in that he’s devoid of ego. He’s low key but it’s great to see him playing well.’ — HARVARD COACH TED DONATO on Crimson junior goaltender Merrick Madsen (above)