|KEVIN REGAN Workhorse at UNH|
WILMINGTON - Over the last two years of his hockey career, Kevin Regan appeared in 67 of the University of New Hampshire's 77 games, earning the trust of coach Dick Umile as an ace NCAA goalie.
According to the Bruins' blueprint, however, Regan might not be as busy in his first year as a professional, which the South Boston native acknowledges.
"I love playing in a lot of games," said Regan, who turns 24 later this month, making him the oldest at this week's Bruins development camp at Ristuccia Arena. "In college and juniors, I played a ton. Going into this season, that most likely won't be the case. It might be every other game. Or it might be in one in three or one in four. It'll be a big adjustment."
Regan was the man in Durham, but if events unfold as expected, the 2003 ninth-round pick will be the No. 2 netminder in Providence behind Tuukka Rask, a first-round draft choice (by the Maple Leafs) in 2005. The 21-year-old Finn is projected to be a No. 1 NHL goalie, the reason the Bruins acquired him from Toronto for goaltender Andrew Raycroft in 2006.
Although Providence was the top AHL club in 2007-08, it is considered a development destination as well, meaning Rask - the assumption is Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez will be Boston's goalies - will likely receive the majority of the starts.
"Obviously, Tuukka is a great goaltender," Regan said. "He proved himself in the American League. My job is to go down, work hard, and give myself the opportunity to play and play well. I'll do the best I can, and hopefully, we can push each other."
But nobody is dismissing the 6-foot-1-inch, 190-pound Regan, who peaked in his senior season (23-8-1, 2.21 goals-against average, .930 save percentage) and became a Hobey Baker finalist, first-team All-American, and Hockey East Player of the Year, leading the Wildcats to the league's regular-season title. In the semifinals of the Hockey East tournament, Regan made 62 saves in a 5-4 triple-overtime loss to NCAA champion Boston College.
Even Regan knows, however, that college and its two-games-per-week schedule doesn't compare with the pro game and all its elements - more games, smaller rinks (he played on UNH's 100-foot-wide Olympic sheet), experienced sharpshooters, and mental grind. At the conclusion of 2007-08, Regan got a hint of his future when he signed an amateur tryout agreement and joined Providence as the third goalie behind Rask and Jordan Sigalet, posting a shutout in his only start, April 12 against Manchester.
Regan quickly recognized that pucks fumbled by collegians were snapping off the pros' sticks. Puckhandlers along the walls, never a threat at the Whittemore Center, could fire decent scoring chances on goal. With just an instant of time and space, a shooter could hit the hole that Regan left over his left shoulder where his glove should have been.
"You can't get away with anything," Regan said. "In college, you can get away with stuff and make a big glove save. But here you can't get away with anything. At every level, it's harder to adjust."
In retrospect, Regan leaned too much on athleticism at UNH, relying on his quickness and instinct to make saves look more challenging than they should have been. Regan noticed, especially during his stop in Providence, that his fundamentals weren't as sharp as he wanted.
"I had done a lot of work on my athleticism, to get faster and quicker," he said. "My technique suffered a little bit, like my glove positioning and where to put my hands."
That's why this summer Regan has been tweaking his game as he prepares for his first NHL training camp, spending more time on the ice than he has in previous offseasons. Regan has been working out with Bruins strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides. Regan has participated in a goalie camp in Andover. Every Thursday night, he skates with other local players (mostly current and ex-collegians) in Hingham.
This week at Ristuccia, alongside Fernandez and junior prospects Michael Hutchinson (a goaltender) and Adam Courchaine (a center), Regan has been refining his work under the watch of goaltending coach Bob Essensa. He's been conscious of his technique, while also focusing on skating, specifically explosive movements to challenge shooters and bolt from one post to the other.
In two months, Regan will return to do battle with the full squad, aiming to prove that he'll be more than an AHL backup. Thomas and Fernandez are in the final years of their contracts, while Hutchinson and Courchaine will return to their junior teams in 2008-09 and are considered several years away from competing for big league employment.
"To get to the National Hockey League, you want to push somebody out of your way," said Don Sweeney, director of hockey operations and player development. "That's what you want all your players to have."
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.