February 8, 2001

Underhill Climbing to the Top

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Imagine spending hours each day standing on ice trying to stop rock hard objects traveling over 70 miles an hour.

Is this your idea of a good time?

It is if you are junior Matt Underhill of the men’s hockey team.

“I think being the one who puts on the pads and has pucks fired at him, people automatically think you’re different or weird,” Underhill says of the reputation of his position. “Some goalies are strange, but some players are a hell of a lot weirder than goalies are.

“I don’t think they understand that we are the most protected on the ice. I’ve never had an injury playing hockey and I don’t know if anyone else in the dressing room could say that. Rarely do goalies get injured playing hockey compared to players,” he said.

“I’d say we are the smart ones.”

And being smart goes a long way to describe how this linguistics major in the college of Arts and Sciences plays his position.

When Underhill came to Cornell, he was a big and talented goalie, but did not understand how to make the most of his abilities.

“Matt has become more of a thinker in goal,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said of his netminder.

Since he arrived on East Hill, Underhill has worked tirelessly at improving at everything from the fundamentals to identifying shooters.

“I had to restructure my game and play to my strengths a little more. You may not notice it from the stands, but I’m staying up and using my size and playing the angles more,” he said. “I’m trying to think more — not being out on top of the crease while the guys are along the boards, knowing who is a threat to score.

“Little changes have made a big difference.”

And he has proof.

His first two years at Cornell he had a save percentage of roughly .900, and a goals against average of 2.90, both of which are good numbers. But his winning percentage was under .500 for his first two years, with a record of 15-18-5.

This year has been a breakthrough year for the native of Campbell River, British Columbia. Presently, he has the fourth-best goal against average in Division I with a stellar 1.93. His save percentage stands at .923, which puts him at 10th in the nation. But the all-important record is what has improved the most dramatically, as he has posted a 8-2-2 record so far this year.

In the ECAC he is tied for first in wins (7), leads in goals against average (1.75) and is fourth in save percentage (.927).

“It is nice to see your name up there [among the statistical leaders]. I know it is clich