Last year the Red benefitted from college hockey’s finest one-two tandem at the goalie position in Matt Underhill ’02 and then-freshman sensation David LeNeveu. With Underhill graduated and trying to find success in the pros, the position falls squarely on the able glove and pads of LeNeveu.
“He’s our number one and we’re expecting him to perform very, very well this season,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said of his young goalie.
LeNeveu, though a freshman, stunned the hockey community last year by posting a 1.50 GAA, the top GAA nationally, in his rookie season on East Hill. He also boasted the nation’s fourth-best save percentage (.936) and was named unanimously to the ECAC’s All-Rookie Team. LeNeveu posted two shutouts in 14 games, both of which came during ECAC play. He posted a 1.54 GAA and .930 save percentage against conference foes. The young netminder’s season was highlighted by a 30-save effort in a huge win over longtime rival B.U.
“He proved himself last year in big games and now has the experience to withstand that pressure,” said Schafer. “That will be a major benefit to our team this year.”
The British Columbia native was rewarded for his remarkable rookie effort with an invitation to the Canadian Junior National Team tryouts over the summer. LeNeveu was one of only two U.S. college players to receive an invitation to the prestigious camp.
“For a Canadian kid especially, it’s a dream come true. People don’t understand what the significance of being invited to that camp is. It’s covered like the Olympics, and best of all it kept him focused all summer,” said Schafer.
For the 6-1, 170-pound LeNeveu, who may have to miss part of the season in December to play for the Canadian team, the most important part of the camp was the superior preparation which it provided him heading into a huge season for the Red.
“It was a perfect setting to get ready for this year. I’m in much better shape and am way sharper heading into this season compared to my rookie year,” said LeNeveu.
The final icing on LeNeveu’s summer camp came when the Phoenix Coyotes drafted the promising talent in the second round of the NHL draft. He was the 46th overall pick.
Of course, the brilliance of LeNeveu will need a complement as Schafer prefers a rotating goalie alignment rather than counting on a single player between the pipes. Competing for the final spot in Schafer’s rotation will be junior Todd Marr and freshman Louis Chabot.
“I’m a firm believer that if things are pretty equal we should go with two goaltenders and keep people fresh. Those are the two guys that will try to make that possible,” said Schafer of the pair.
Marr transferred from Northeastern a year ago and was forced to sit out the first half of the 2001-02 campaign. Marr played for the Waterloo Black Hawks immediately after leaving Northeastern and posted a .909 save percentage in his last consistent action with the Cedar Rapids Rough Riders. The 6-0, 190 pound Connecticut native has skipped around for the last few seasons and will finally be able to focus by settling in with the Cornell team.
Chabot comes fresh off an All-Rookie year in the MJHL last season for the OCN Blizzard. In 30 games of play, the Quebec native had a 2.43 GAA (third in the league), .909 save percentage, and earned an impressive 25-2 record for the eventual league champions. Chabot’s season was highlighted by two shutout efforts, a unique accomplishment in the fast-paced, high-scoring league.
“They are both very capable performers, and they’ve shown everyone a lot throughout our first couple of weeks in practice,” said LeNeveu of his counterparts. “It will be a good race for who will make the rotation.”
One of the most apparent question marks on Schafer’s team is hanging over the netminder position, and it will be answered soon enough as the regular season approaches. One certainty, however, will be the man owning the crease when critical situations arise in what is sure to be a highly pressurized season for the Red.
“I’m excited to get going and see just how good we are. We’re a better team than last year,” said a confident LeNeveu.