This season the Miami Brotherhood welcomes 13 new faces to the program, including 11 freshmen. With so many new players on the roster, the "In the Crease" semimonthly interview series aims to introduce the newcomers to the fans. The fourth installment of the series is with freshman netminder Ryan McKay.
McKay has had an impressive run in net for the RedHawks this year, despite appearing in only four games due to an injury in his third game at Michigan Oct. 26. The Palatine, Ill., native has recorded two shutouts in only four games played, as he returned to the ice Dec. 1 at Alaska and pitched a whitewash in his first game back. McKay holds a jaw-dropping .989 save percentage and a 0.32 goals-against average, having allowed just one goal in 190 minutes of action on the year.
Prior to joining the Brotherhood, McKay had a star-studded career in the USHL, where he was named USHL Co-Goalie of the Year after his final season with the Green Bay Gamblers. McKay went 27-5-3 last year and had an outstanding .922 save percentage and a league-best 2.18 goals-against average.
Interview by Chris Rydburg, athletic communications assistant
Chris Rydburg: Obviously you have been out with an injury for the past few weeks, which is tough for any player to deal with. How did it feel to finally get back between the pipes and record a shutout in your first game back?
Ryan McKay: Obviously it feels really good. Getting back into the routine of things came real quick for me. We held them off up there in Alaska. That was obviously a really long trip and the guys were tired and that fatigue was setting in on Saturday. Alaska was able to jump on us early but we were able to dominate the latter half of the second and third period to get the shutout.
CR: How have you been able to keep your mental edge and focus going despite not being able to be on the ice?
RM: I think, as a goalie, you just have to turn the page. All you can do is control what you do when you are in the net, that's what I focus on. I think the day after day routine I have with myself, (classmate and fellow goaltender) Jay Williams, and Coach Petraglia with goaltending training before practice definitely helps us stay focused.
CR: What inspired you to don a goaltending mask and throw yourself at flying rubber night in and night out?
RM: When I was two years old my dad kicked a soccer ball and I was playing goalie in front of a little mini hockey net. He kicked the ball so hard it knocked me into the net. I made the save, but I got up and I threw the ball back at him and I told him "Hey dad, let's do that again." Ever since then I haven't been able to stay out of the net.
CR: Was there any player that really influenced or inspired you?
RM: When I was real young I definitely liked Martin Brodeur. I don't play anything like him now. I've been a fan of just about every goaltender in the NHL. I really like Shane Connelly who coaches up in Bowling Green with Chris Bergeron. I also really like Montreal's Carey Price and Vancouver's Cory Schneider.
CR: What is your favorite meal or treat Uptown?
RM: I definitely like Orange Leaf. My sister is a freshman here, and we try to get together once every two weeks and go to Orange Leaf.
CR: This team is one of the youngest in the NCAA and a lot of people maybe wrote you guys off due to the team's age. You guys are certainly proving them wrong.
RM: To be honest, at this point in the season and even at the start of the season, we didn't play like a freshman team. Each guy in this locker room is so focused right now it doesn't matter if it is a senior or a freshman. If your experience is two games or a hundred games it doesn't matter. We don't use our age as an excuse. We look at ourselves as an entire team and that's who we are. Right now we are playing well and we are looking to continue that this weekend.
CR: You guys have had a plethora of shootout games this year. Who is the one guy in the locker room you would not want to face in a shootout?
RM: I think Austin Czarnik has a couple of moves that are real good. Curtis McKenzie is pretty tough with his long reach. Alex Wideman has had a lot of big goals for us and has been clutch. Alex is pretty hot right now.
CR: You essentially have a .99 save percentage. What happened during that one percent? Did you fall asleep at the wheel?
RM: It was a five-on-three [power play] (laughs). I could go through it if you want. It's one of those things you can't dwell on as a goalie. You have to be able to turn the page pretty quickly. That's just kind of the way it happens (laughs).
Fans can engage in the series as well by submitting questions for any of the newcomers to Chris Rydburg at firstname.lastname@example.org. He will then work them into his interview with that player in an installment of In the Crease.