By Pat Murray
LEWISTON, N.Y. — Last season, Niagara University men's hockey coach Dave Burkholder didn't really have to think long and hard as to who his starting goalie would be most nights. He simply penciled in Jeff Van Nynatten game after game.
That's not the case this season now that Van Nynatten, last season's College Hockey America co-player of the year, has graduated. Now Burkholder has to choose between sophomore Juliano Pagliero and junior Scott Mollison, who both saw limited playing time last season.
But even without the luxury of having Van Nynatten between the pipes night after night, Burkholder feels Niagara's goaltending is solid.
"I don't see it being a concern," Burkholder said. "Both of them were No. 1 goalies on their junior teams, and I have a lot of confidence in them."
Unlike last season, Burkholder doesn't imagine riding one goalie, at least not in the early part of the season.
"We're going to rotate goalies," Burkholder said. "We'll be going back-to-back on most weekends before Christmas, so it's good to know we have more than one goaltender."
In addition to Pagliero and Mollison, NU returns senior goalie Allen Barton, who didn't see any playing time last season, but started seven games as a sophomore.
"Allen has really looked good in practice, and has caught our attention," Burkholder said. "He's been pushing the other goalies in practice, and gives us another option."
Pagliero has had the better start to the season, allowing five goals on 64 shots over two starts, while Mollison surrendered seven goals on five 35 shots in a 7-3 season-opening loss to Clarkson.
Pagliero was in the nets for a 4-3 win over St. Lawrence and in a 2-1 loss to Colgate on Thursday.
"You can't judge off of one game." Burkholder said. "We didn't get off to a good start against Clarkson, and their first two chances were in the net."
Burkholder hadn't decided on a starting goalie for tonight's home opener against Holy Cross.
Niagara goaltending coach Greg Gardner believes both goaltenders are fundamentally strong.
"That's something we've worked on," said Gardner, a former NU goalie, who led the Purple Eagles to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2000. "They've both looked very good in practice. They're getting enough reps. I don't think goaltending is going to be a question mark all season."
Mollison and Pagliero are both eager to see more playing time this season.
"It was tough last season, but Jeff had such a great year," Mollison said. "I just had to treat every practice like a game and stay focused because I knew my chance was coming."
Pagliero worked hard to get in shape during the off season.
"Last season I was in the bottom five on the team in conditioning, and this year I'm in the top five," he said. "One thing I learned over the summer was that nothing comes easy. Our fitness trainer put me on a good nutrition program. Basically, I have to pick and choose over at Clet Dining Hall. Pick up more salads and lay off some of the other foods."
Now it will be up to the goalies to help the Purple Eagles pick up more wins.