Last summer, Mav fans all over town were anxiously awaiting this hockey season. A 4th place finish in the league with a team loaded with talented freshmen and sophomores led to visions of greatness for this season.
Then the New York Rangers came in and made goalie Chris Holt an offer he just couldn't resist. Hard to blame Holt, but it sure put UNO in an awkward position. The only returning goalie for UNO had a rough freshman year. So all eyes were on the goaltender position as the season opened up.
Sophomore Eric Aarnio started the season, but was injured after his second game. True freshman Greg Barrett, signed after Holt left, played inconsistently in his first few games. Then, against Bowling Green, coach Kemp gave freshman Jerad Kaufmann a shot, and he grabbed hold of the position. He played well enough to keep the starting job through November and December.
Then came January, and hit his stride, shutting out Ohio State in Columbus. His hot streak coincided with UNO's hot streak, and UNO rode Kaufmann up the standings to where they are today. While Hobey Baker candidate Scott Parse is clearly the star of this squad, Kaufmann is the unsung hero.
In today's Omaha World-Herald, Chad Purcell covers Kaufmann's journey from his recruitment as the "practice goalie" (door opener???) to leading UNO into the NCAA tournament.
Let's compare Kaufmann's numbers in his rookie year to his predecessors final year, who have both played in the NHL:
Dan Ellis (2002-03) 11-21-5, .900 save percentage, 3.18 goals allowed/game
Chris Holt (2004-05) 19-14-4, .903 save percentage, 2.88 goals allowed/game
Jared Kaufmann (2005-06) 17-8-6, .907 save percentage, 2.72 goals allowed/game
Exceeding expectations would be a quite an understatement. Kaufmann's biggest save was with UNO's dream season.