Prep ice hockey: Judge boasts trio of talented goalies
Marshall Wallace sits on a bench outside the ice rink at the Salt Lake City Sports Complex, and he glances behind him, where his two young teammates stand, looking out onto the ice sheet.
Together, Wallace, a senior, sophomore Robbie Brennan and freshman Colin Bonk have formed a goaltending trio that has kept the Judge Memorial ice hockey team undefeated in its pursuit of a second straight state title.
That the Bulldogs have three goalies not only vying for playing time but capable of earning it and succeeding is rare for Utah prep hockey, where some teams struggle to find even one worthy goaltender.
"It gives us the versatility that if it's not working out, we have other options," Wallace said.
While Bulldogs coach Tony Musci described having three goaltenders as a "luxury," it doesn't come without challenges. Making sure they each get enough reps in limited practice hours isn't easy, and it's a struggle finding each of them playing time.
Musci does his best to split up playing time fairly, and while seniority plays a factor, it largely comes down to who earns it. Brennan and Wallace each have played in six games, while Bonk has been in four.
"It's kind of weird because I'm not used to having three goalies on a team," said Brennan, who is considered the No. 1 goalie. "You show up to a game, and you may play, or you may not. It's fun because you get a break and you can help other people out, but it's like, 'Oh, I don't get as much playing time as I did last year.' "
All three goalies acknowledged they have concerns about playing time, but there's never hostility among them. When one of the other goalies is on the ice, they do their best to provide support.
"We all love each other, and we're all brothers," Wallace said. "It's kind of a thing where we all have each other's backs. But we have friendly competition, and we're always trying to work hard in practice."
Brennan and Wallace are tied for the state lead with .937 save percentages in significant playing time. In about half that playing time, Bonk is eighth with an .861 save percentage, above several other goalies with more varsity experience. Together, they've helped the 11-0 Bulldogs outscore opponents 65-16.
Despite the similarities in their success, they have taken different paths to get there. Brennan and Bonk have grown up playing goalie and long have felt at ease between the pipes. Wallace didn't start playing the position until he was a freshman, and he's come a long way from barely being able to stand up in goalie pads.
"I didn't like sitting on the bench," Wallace said. "I realized I wasn't entitled to anything, so I got in shape and ended up losing 35 pounds. I'm able to make a lot quicker moves."
There also are differences in how they play. Bonk is sound technically and precise in his movements. Brennan, while solid technically, is more of a fighter, constantly flying around in the crease. Wallace is somewhere in between.
Their unique styles each bring something different to the team, and they all agree they've improved themselves by learning from one another.
"It will make me a better player," Bonk said. "I've had to compete with other goalies before, but this is a good competition."