Dartmouth Goalie Preserves Hockey History on Helmet

Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, March 17, 2016
When Dartmouth College hockey goaltender Charles Grant takes the ice at the Herb Brooks Arena at Lake Placid, N.Y., on Friday, he’ll carry with him the likenesses of four pretty good netminders in their own rights.

That’s because Grant’s mask features painted images of Felix Potvin and Curtis Joseph on the right side and Terry Sawchuk and Johnny Bower on the left. Each played at various times for the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, Grant’s favorite team. Joseph was Grant’s idol as a boy, when his father, Danny, would allow his elementary school-aged son to stay up late and watch the Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada.

Potvin played for Toronto from 1991-99 and Joseph from 1998-2002 and again during the 2008-09 season. Bower suited up as a Leaf from 1958-70 and twice won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goaltender. Sawchuk called Maple Leaf Gardens home only from 1964-67, but won four Vezinas during his lengthy career.

“The fun thing as a goalie is that you get to customize your gear,” said Grant, who hopes to backstop the seventh-seeded Big Green (18-15-1) past top-seeded and No. 1 Quinnipiac (27-3-7) in the ECAC tournament semifinals and into Saturday’s championship game. “From a distance, I wanted the mask to just look dark green, but up close, you can see the different shades that make out the silhouettes of the goalies.”

Grant chose two recent and two historic Toronto targets, although he doesn’t know much about Bower and Sawchuk. His mask’s back plate has a white lobster on it, a tribute to his grandfather, Lloyd Grant, a Nova Scotia lobster fisherman who died during Grant’s sophomore year.

Grant designed and drew images that hew closely to the ones on his mask. A professional equipment painter did the actual work, communicating back and forth with Grant via emailed directions, questions and photographs.

Although Dartmouth’s focus is now squarely on Quinnipiac, an ECAC tournament title and the chance to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1980, earlier in the week the Big Green players and coaches are still deriving enjoyment from their stunning quarterfinal sweep of second-seeded Yale. The visitors rode a combined 94 saves by Grant for what was widely regarded as the biggest upset of the weekend in Division I playoff action.

“If you look at the shots, yes, they outplayed us,” sophomore forward Carl Hesler said. “But at the end of the day, what matters is we’re the ones moving on. They can say whatever they want.”

Yale coach Keith Allain told the New Haven Register that “I’ve been in hockey a long time and I’ve never seen a team dominate another team like that and not come out on top.”

Hesler said that although Yale attempted a combined 207 shots during the two games, the Bulldogs took most of them from outside the slot.

“At times we just played with desperation,” Hesler said. “I think we wanted it more than they did. I’ve never seen a better goaltender performance than what Chuck did. He absolutely put on a show.”

Most of the Dartmouth players had left Thompson Arena by 4 p.m. Tuesday, headed off to get a meal and some rest before busing to Lake Placid on Wednesday. Remaining behind for a few minutes, however, was freshman forward Kevan Kilistoff, who carefully sharpened his skates on a whirring machine.

Lest you think this is a common occurrence with the hockey set, consider that Big Green coach Bob Gaudet can recall only one other player who’s done it during his 28-year coaching career. And he couldn’t summon the man’s name on short notice.

“I think it’s a form of therapy for him,” Gaudet said of Kilistoff. “He can get away for a bit and focus on having something just the way he likes it.”

Kilistoff said he acquired the skill while working at Levy’s Source for Sports in his hometown of Langley, British Columbia. He played junior hockey for the hometown Langley Rivermen and spent two years at the shop, becoming one of the go-to guys for sharpening and balancing skate blades, repairing skate boots and replacing rivets.

“You start on a pair of old, crappy skates and then you practice on your own and then the boss watches you sharpen others until he decides you’re ready to do ones for customers,” Kilistoff said. “It’s a process you learn through repetition, just like passing or shooting.”

High-level players can instantly tell when their blades aren’t sharpened to their liking or have nicks along the blades. Certain patterns of creating a “hollow” between the blade edges mean a skater sinks more or less into the ice and can glide on it shorter or farther distances. Some players get their “jets” sharpened almost every day, while others, like Kilistoff, opt for once a week or so.

An economics major, Kilistoff said he’s taken to sharpening teammate Connor Yaul’s skates on occasion, but has no plans to expand his clientele. Goalie Grant said he’s also able to sharpen his own skates, but hands the job off to equipment manager Garrett Lesswing to save time.

Did Lesswing object when Kilistoff said he wanted to sharpen his own skates?

“Nope,” Kilistoff said with a smile. “Less work for him.”

Notes: Grant’s work at Yale earned him his third ECAC Goaltender of the Week award this season. His .959 save percentage was the sixth-best in the country among Division I backstops last weekend, but he stopped 27 more shots than any of the five goaltenders ahead of him. … The University of Minnesota’s Eric Schierhorn, the younger brother of Dartmouth captain Brad Schierhorn, earned the Big Ten Conference Goaltender of the Year award this week. … Third-seeded Harvard and fourth-seeded St. Lawrence play after Dartmouth and Quinnipiac on Friday. The games’ winners meet Saturday at 7:30 in the title game. … Dartmouth lost both games to Quinnipiac this season. The Big Green led the second contest, 5-2, with fewer than 15 minutes remaining on Jan. 29, but lost, 7-5. ... Unfortunately for Dartmouth and Quinnipiac fans, the schools’ semifinal game will not be available on cable or satellite in either New Hampshire or Connecticut. The only viewing option in those locations is online at a cost of $10. A link will be available at dartmouthsports.com.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.

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