Today we’re going to examine which NCAA D-I goaltenders have had the best seasons thus far. The holiday break provides a unique opportunity to test and compare the statistics and performance of goaltenders against each other, despite the fact that there is a significant disparity in the number of games played by each team thus far.
Measuring (and predicting) performance for goaltenders with statistics in any league is an imperfect science. All of the noteworthy goaltending stats are impacted in a significant way by the performance of the team playing in front of the goalie as well as the team they are playing against. It is because of this that a “good” or even “average” goaltender can have great numbers if they are playing behind an elite group of skaters. This also makes it hard to discern which goaltenders are having the greatest impact on the success of their team, especially in the NCAA where 5v5 and/or even strength save percentage — not to mention save percentages by danger zone — are not available to the public.
With all of that being said, we can still use the data we have available to help us find the cream of the NCAA’s goaltending talent pool.
First, let’s add some context to the performance of the goaltenders we’re going to turn a spotlight on today. Here are a few key averages among all goaltenders who have competed in an NCAA D-I game thus far in 2018–19.
- Average SA60 (shots against per 60 minutes): 28.61
- Average Sv%: .918
- Average GAA: 2.322
We will do our best to separate an individual goaltender’s performance from that of her team. For example: no NCAA goalie has played more minutes or has earned more wins than Wisconsin’s Kristin Campbell, but she faces just 16.21 SA60, which is dramatically lower than the league average. That doesn’t mean that Campbell isn’t a good goaltender; it means that she hasn’t had to be as good as some of her peers.
Note: the cut-off used for determining GSAA in this piece was 422 minutes. This allowed for almost all goaltenders who have started in at least seven games thus far this season.
Abigail Levy, freshman | Minnesota State
Levy has been sensational this season for Minnesota State. Her 0.286 GSAA/60 (goals saved above average per 60 minutes — all strengths) is the highest in the nation. Levy has played almost every minute of Minnesota State’s 18 games thus far this season and has stood tall despite her team averaging a –4.22 SOG differential.
Levy’s numbers dwarf those put up by Minnesota State’s timeshare of Chloe Crosby and Kathryn Bidulka last season. It’s still early, but it’s safe to say that Levy has played a major role in the Mavericks’ dramatic improvement from a 76.5 PK% last year to a 91.9 PK% in 2018–19.
The 6-foot-1 netminder has started in 18 games this season and shares the lead in shutouts in the nation with Aerin Frankel. Levy’s worst single-game save percentage this season was a .908 Sv% against Robert Morris University on Nov. 16. In other words, she’s been consistently brilliant for the Mavericks.
Aerin Frankel, sophomore | Northeastern
Frankel has played a lot less hockey than Levy this season, but the fellow Shattuck–St. Mary’s alumna has also put up some jaw-dropping numbers. Frankel’s .964 Sv% and 1.00 GAA both lead the nation. Also, her .172 GSAA/60 is fourth in the nation, and for that reason alone she deserves a spot on this list.
Frankel’s numbers are definitely buoyed by playing behind a team that has an average +7.59 shot differential, but she faces just .49 fewer shots per 60 than the average NCAA goaltender. It’s also worth mentioning that the Huskies are 8–1–0 when she’s been the goaltender of record and 5–1–2 when she’s not. Her numbers overshadow those of Brittany Bugalski, her goaltending partner at Northeastern.
Lindsay Reed, freshman | Harvard
Reed is the second freshman goaltender on our list, which speaks volumes about the talent level of this year’s freshman class.
The Crimson’s new starting goaltender has the second-best GSAA/60 (.207) in the nation. If that wasn’t impressive enough, she also has a higher save percentage (.955) than Frankel while facing over three more shots, on average, per game. Reed has also allowed three or more goals at even strength just once this season, and that was against Wisconsin’s 4.05 goals per-game offense.
The fact that Reed has put up numbers like that playing behind a team that has gone 4–5–2 this year is nothing short of amazing. Freshman forward Kristin Della Rovere may be leading the team in goals, but there’s ample evidence that Reed has been the Crimson’s MVP thus far. One could definitely make a case for Reed being the best goaltender in the nation based on her play through the first 11 games of Harvard’s season.
Lovisa Selander, senior | RPI
Selander, a recent NWHL draft pick of the Boston Pride, is one of two seniors on our list. The 5-foot-11 Swede has been rock solid for an RPI team that, on average, is outshot by a margin of 5.82 shots per game. Selander’s .157 GSAA/60 ranks third in the nation. She has also been a big part of Rensselaer’s shorthanded success this season.
The biggest strike against Selander is the strength of her competition to date. She has played against relatively low-scoring opponents, which has helped her post a .944 Sv% through 16 games this year. That’s much improved from the .932 Sv% she posted last season as a junior. With that being said, she’s been great playing behind one of the lowest-scoring teams in the nation while facing 34.66 SA60.
Madison Myers, senior | Providence
Myers has the lowest SA60 on our list, but she’s been so brilliant we had to include her. In 16 starts this season for the Lady Friars, Myers has yet to allow more than two even-strength goals in a single game. Now that is consistency. Myers, Levy, Selander, and Samantha Ridgewell of Merrimack University are the only goaltenders with a save percentage north of .940 who have started in more than a dozen games this season.
Myers’ .949 Sv% and .160 GSAA/60 this season are both much improved from her performance in her junior season. She ranks sixth in the nation in GSAA/60 and is second in the nations in wins, behind Wisconsin’s Kristin Campbell.
It’s hard to say just how crucial Myers has been to Providence’s success this year, but one thing is abundantly clear — she is definitely helping the cause with her reliable and exceptional play between the pipes.
Janine Alder, Terra Lanteigne, Kassidy Sauvé, Samantha Ridgewell, and Andrea Brändli.
Data from hockeyeastonline.com