Frank Doyle is tied for the nation’s fifth best goals-against average at 1.84. He is tied for the ninth-best save percentage at .922. His five shutouts and 18 wins place him in a tie for fourth in those categories.
But Doyle has been relegated to a backup role for the University of Maine men’s hockey team.
His tandem mate, Jimmy Howard, leads the nation in goals-against average (1.05) and save percentage (.958) thanks to a remarkable 11-game stretch that has seen him post an 0.67 GAA and a .973 save percentage. All eight goals he has allowed have been power-play goals.
Howard has six shutouts.
The classy Doyle is the consummate team player. He wants a national championship ring. He fully understands the situation.
“Obviously, it’s tough. You want to play. But it’s hard to get too upset about it. Jimmy is playing unbelievable right now. You look at what he’s done these past 10-11 games and it’s hard to dispute coach’s [Tim Whitehead] decision,” said Doyle.
“I just want the team to succeed. We’ve done so well to this point, if I was to get upset about this, I wouldn’t be a team guy. I want to be part of this team and do what I can to help them win,” said Doyle.
For him, that means being ready in case he gets the call.
“I’ve got to continue to work hard, try to have fun in practice and do what I can just in case this team needs me. I’ve got to make sure I’m playing at the top of my game to help them,” said Doyle.
Howard played back-to-back games for the first time this season last weekend, stopping 84 of 85 shots in wins over Boston University (21 saves) and UMass ( school-record 63 stops) to earn tourney MVP honors.
“Frank was very supportive last weekend. He’s a great kid. What can I say? I love him. I’m going to miss him when he leaves this year,” said Howard.
Sophomore center Derek Damon, Doyle’s roommate, said “Frank knows what’s best for the team. Jimmy is on a roll right now. Frank’s a great person. He’s going to play for many years to come.”
“It’s tough to see Frank not in there but Jimmy is hot and you can understand coach’s decision to play him,” said junior right wing John Ronan. “Frank is a great goalie. He doesn’t have anything to hang his head about. He has been real mature and professional about how he’s handled the situation. Jimmy and Frank are probably the best two goalies in the country. It doesn’t matter who plays for us.”
Whitehead is sympathetic about Doyle’s plight. But he also knows he has to do whatever he can to win four more hockey games and a national championship.
“Frank is a fierce competitor and I know it hurt him not to get the call Saturday [vs. UMass],” said Whitehead. “He also understands it’s a team sport and a coach has to play all the options available to him.
“In this case Jimmy has gotten hot at the right time. Frank understands that. He has told me that. The good news is that Frank is ready to go whenever we need him. That’s a card most teams can’t play,” said Whitehead, who pointed out Doyle was the hot goalie at this time last year and he got the call against Michigan (2-1 loss) in their NCAA Tournament opener in Ann Arbor, Mich.
One of the most important ingredients in Maine’s success has been the willingness of its players to accept their roles.
Doyle has been an integral part of this team on and off the ice. He is accepting the toughest of roles these days.
Larry Mahoney can be reached at 990-8231, 1-800-310-8600 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.