What it Takes to be a D1 Goalie (Part 5)

What does it take to be a D1 goalie?

Last but never least, in Part 5 we come to the ECAC. Imagine yourself playing goal in a highly competitive, fast-paced game where you made 36 saves. Now double it. One night last season, Dan Clarke of the Quinnipiac University Bobcats found himself playing the equivalent of two back-to-back games. A lesser goalie might have considered asking his coach for a break, to put in the backup goalie for a few minutes. The only thing Clarke requested was a fresh water bottle while he seemed to only grow stronger in net, displaying a tremendous amount of mental and physical stamina coupled with a tenacious determination to win.

Clarke is a junior at Quinnipiac University, majoring in Business Marketing with a minor in Management. He set an ECAC Hockey Tournament record with a stunning 73 saves in Quinnipiac’s five-overtime victory against Union last season, as well as setting the Bobcats’s single-game saves record.

Before college he played in the OPJHL for the Cobourg Cougars and the Bowmanville Eagles, earning the 2006 Most Improved Player (Cobourg), 2007 Playoff Team MVP (Cobourg) and 2008 Playoff Team MVP (Bowmanville).

His collegiate awards thus far include:

Commissioners Choice National Player of the Month (NCAA)
ECAC Goaltender of the week (four times)
2009-10 Team MVP
All Academic Team 2008
All Academic Team 2009

During the game, most of the attention of opposing fans is focused on YOU and they do everything they can to get inside your head. What do you do to keep that from happening?  How do you handle the pressure to play well? How do you handle it off the ice?

“Playing certain schools, you always have an idea of what to expect during the game. Knowing what to expect and not focusing on the fans is the biggest key to success. For a lot of goalies we enjoy the atmosphere and the attention given to us in a visiting rink and can use that to motivate us to play at our best.”

Does being a high profile player ever have an effect on your daily life around campus? Has there ever been a time when being so recognizable has been a hindrance?  Has there been an instance when it has been particularly helpful?

“Not so much. I like to work hard at the rink and also in the classroom.”

How do you handle what is said about you in the press and on message boards? How do you stay focused when sometimes it seems there is an entire city that has an opinion on how you should play?

“You have to have a thick skin when it comes to the press and message boards. Everyone wants to point the finger at someone and the easiest person is the goaltender. Biggest thing to counteract that is just not to read what others think and only worry about yourself.”

How do you manage to keep your grades up AND keep up with a demanding hockey schedule? Where do you find the time? How does it affect your life outside of school?

“I find the hockey to actually benefit my schooling. When time is limited, it is much easier to do the homework and assignments rather than procrastinate and struggle to meet the deadlines.”

You spent a long time dreaming about being a Division 1 goalie, how does the reality compare to what you expected?

“There’s no better feeling than making your dream come true, but the ride is not over yet and there is more to be had. People say that college is the best four years of your life and playing hockey on top of that is something I do not take for granted.”

What do you do after a bad game? How do you mentally prepare for the next one?

“You have to have a short memory. Usually you play back-to-back nights in college and have to let things go real quick. Just having the confidence that your going to go out the next night and play your game is all you worry about.”

What does a typical day during hockey season entail?

“Wake up for a 9 a.m. class, practice and work out from 11-2, then class again from 3-5. Usually after that I hang out with my roommates and do homework or play video games.”

When you are a high profile athlete that is playing well, you get all kinds of offers all the time. Some players end up partying too much, it affects their game and before they know it, they have ruined their chances for a pro career. Why hasn’t that happened to you? How do you keep from getting distracted?

“You need to be careful when you are away from the rink. You want to enjoy yourself in college but not overdo it. Staying focused and letting your body tell you it needs a nights’ rest is something you need to listen to.”

What sacrifices did you have to make to become a D1 goalie? And now? Is there one that you regret? Something you wish you could have done differently, or an event you wish you hadn’t missed?

“I stayed back to play Juniors for two years after high school. The teammates and friends you make are guys you will never forget. For the past two summers now, I’ve moved away from home to train and work on my game to prepare myself for the season and to try and separate myself from other goalies in the college leagues.”

In the end, has it all been worth it?

“Absolutely, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

What is the one bit of advice you wish someone had given you when you started college hockey?

“Take care of schoolwork!  Stress between school and hockey overlap, so the less stress the better.”


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