For simplicity's sake, let's just say the late-season goalie situation for the UNO hockey team last season was unsettled.
Senior John Faulkner was lights-out for the first semester, ranking among the Division I leaders in wins, but he wasn't as sharp after Christmas.
Freshman Anthony Stolarz, the second-round draft pick and All-American in waiting, had lost patience and left for major juniors at the semester break.
Dayn Belfour was still there, but never got into a game until — out of nowhere — he was the Mavericks' starter in perhaps their most important game to that point, a Feb. 8 home contest with North Dakota.
Belfour played well but lost, and relieved an ineffective Faulkner the following night. He then shut out Alaska-Anchorage, but was pulled in a win over the last-place Seawolves the following night.
So the Mavs, once in contention for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association title, were by then looking for whatever it took to secure home ice for the playoffs by finishing in the league's top six.
And back into the mix stepped Ryan Massa, who had split time — playing slightly more than Faulkner — in 2011-12, then decided to take last year off while working out with the Omaha Lancers. He had come back to finish a redshirt season with UNO as a third-string safety net when Stolarz left, but now he was in the crease.
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For his sophomore season, Massa played in three games. Eight months later, he said he would still do the same thing.
“I have no regrets whatsoever,” he said. “I was happy I even had the opportunity to play. I was doing well in practice, and it was a decision that myself, my family, the coaching staff and the team were involved in. I felt I could help the team, and I was happy for the opportunity.”
Massa wasn't the miracle the Mavs had been hoping to find.
In those three games, he had an 0-2 record, a 5.42 goals-against average and an .818 save percentage — numbers that were well short of his steady freshman season, when he was 7-8-2 with a 2.60 GAA and .914 save percentage.
Technically, Massa's redshirt season was burned when he started and played the first two periods of a Feb. 21 exhibition game against the Under-18 United States National Team, stopping 28 of 29 shots. He started March 1 against Wisconsin, but gave up four goals and lost. He gave up four more goals before being pulled against Minnesota-Duluth on March 8. And he gave up four goals again to the Bulldogs the following night, taking another loss in the regular-season finale.
He didn't play at all in the three-game playoff series against Minnesota State-Mankato.
The Mavs and Massa are expecting him to play this season much more like he did as a freshman. And if that happens, UNO could rue its decision to bring Massa out of a redshirt season last year, giving him only two more years of eligibility instead of three.
“We'll see,” UNO coach Dean Blais said. “It makes it more important in our recruiting that we get a big-time goalie lined up for when he's gone — an All-American type like we thought Anthony Stolarz would have been.
“Maybe it's Kirk Thompson and maybe it's Reed Peters. And we're hoping Ryan develops into one the next two years. He's going to have the opportunity. We've got three guys here, and one of them can take it and run with it. Until that happens, we're going to have to do some experimenting.”
Blais, who takes his time in naming starting goaltenders, said Wednesday that if he had to guess, Massa would likely start Friday's 7:37 p.m. season opener against Bentley at the CenturyLink Center. Thompson will probably start Saturday, said Blais, who also suggested that Peters could displace one of those two by the end of the week.
All three played in Monday's 6-1 exhibition win over the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. Thompson got 12 saves and Peters allowed the only goal, on a screened shot, while making five saves.
Massa stopped all six shots he faced.
“I felt great, and I was seeing the puck well,” he said. “Our penalty kill did its job real well in front of me — didn't give them much room to create any real intense offense.”
Massa, from Littleton, Colo., spent some time as he did last offseason, working out with top players in his home state, including players from the Colorado Avalanche. In addition, he said, three weeks spent at the Minnesota Hockey Camps in Brainerd, Minn., were extremely helpful.
Massa counseled younger goalies at the camps, and also had intense training on and off the ice. The on-ice work included practice drills and a daily 60-minute game. Among those on hand, he said, were several NHL players, including Scott Hartnell and T.J. Oshie.
“Some really high-caliber, NHL veterans — you don't get the opportunity to skate with those kinds of guys every day,” Massa said. “To get three weeks of intense off-ice training, and two on-ice sessions a day — I probably saw 10,000 shots — it was everything I needed to get my body, and my play, up to speed at that level. It makes the transition to the NCHC that much easier and gives me a lot of confidence that I can take into the start of the season.”
This year, at least, his season starts in October.
“I took a lot of strong strides this offseason to make up for that lack of game experience,” Massa said. “I'm feeling really confident that I got in all the work I needed this summer to help give this team the start that we want.”