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Reiter's sharp play in goal is key for Frozen Four-bound Minnesota Duluth

DULUTH - When All-American goalie Alex Stalock left Minnesota Duluth after his junior season in 2009, he held program career records for save percentage at .910 and goals-against average at 2.48.

DULUTH - When All-American goalie Alex Stalock left Minnesota Duluth after his junior season in 2009, he held program career records for save percentage at .910 and goals-against average at 2.48.

Kenny Reiter watched from the bench for two years, as a redshirt in 2007-08 and a backup in 2008-09, before being in line to succeed the tenacious, puck-playing South St. Paul goalie.

In the two years since, Reiter has quietly built impressive career numbers in 54 games. And while he shuns any comparison to Stalock (who played in twice as many games), Reiter has been a key ingredient in UMD's drive to the 2011 Frozen Four which begins Thursday at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center.

The team's second-oldest player at 24 has a 27-17-5 record, .913 save percentage and 2.33 goals-against average as a Bulldog. He points to the final game of last season, a 2-0 loss to eventual-champion North Dakota in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five play-in game, as a starting point for 2010-11.

"That was one of my better games and I drew upon that for inspiration. This season we have a high-powered offense that can handle any situation, and we've played good team defense," said Reiter, a junior from Pittsburgh, who shared time last year with Brady Hjelle, who returned to the U.S. Hockey League this season. "That's what's gotten us this far."


The No. 9-ranked Bulldogs (24-10-6) meet No. 11 Notre Dame (25-13-5) in the NCAA semifinals at 4 p.m. Thursday, while No. 2 North Dakota (32-8-3) plays No. 5 Michigan (28-10-4) at 7:30 p.m. The title game is Saturday.

UMD enters the tournament with a 4-1 record the past five playoff games. In that stretch, Reiter has a .932 save percentage and 1.73 goals-against average. For the season, he's 14-7-5 with marks of .914 and 2.29 in splitting time with freshman Aaron Crandall. Reiter has started the past eight games.

A defining moment in the postseason came in the East Regional two weeks ago in Bridgeport, Conn. Union College outshot UMD 12-5 in the first period in the semifinals and Yale University outshot UMD 14-6 in the first period in the title game. But the Bulldogs led 1-0 after 20 minutes each night.

"We came out slow in both games and Kenny shut the door early. He was a calming influence until we got our legs," said Crandall, who is 10-3-1 this season. "He's older, he's knowledgeable, he's paid his dues and he's playing well. I prepare every day like I'm going to play, because you can't let your guard down, but I understand that he's playing well and we're riding him."

UMD beat No. 8 Union 2-0 and No. 1 Yale 5-3 despite being outshot 65-54, as Reiter was named the regional's most outstanding player. The shutout was only the second by UMD in NCAA tournament play, following Isaac Reichmuth's 5-0 win over Michigan State in the 2004 Midwest Regional semifinals on the way to the Frozen Four.

"Those were the two biggest games I've ever been part of and luckily I had two good performances," said Reiter, who played three years in the North American Hockey League, and has been on the WCHA all-academic team three years. "Special teams and goaltending are always more in the spotlight at this time of the season. Our defense didn't allow many second opportunities and they sacrificed their bodies. Those were probably the best games we've played as a team; we had complete efforts.

"We all feel we deserve something good to happen after losing in the (2009 West Regional final) and then just missing the (NCAA) tournament last year."

Reiter's parents, Kevin and Marjorie, monitored the East Regional games from Fort Wayne, Ind., where they watched son Kevin, a former Alaska Anchorage goalie, play for the Fort Wayne Komets of the Central Hockey League. The Reiters, along with daughter, Melany, will be at the Xcel Energy Center this week.


Notre Dame enters the tournament with the second-best offense among the semifinalists, averaging 3.44 goals a game. UMD is allowing 2.58 per game.

"Both of our goalies have played well this season," said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. "Especially early in the season, when we put a streak together, they kept us in games early and we were able to win a few of those in overtime. Kenny has proven the last couple of years what kind of goalie he is. We were confident he could do well and he's shown that maturity."

The Duluth News Tribune and the Herald are both Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

Minnesota Duluth goaltender Kenny Reiter
Minnesota Duluth goalkeeper Kenny Reiter makes a save during the third period of his team's 5-3 victory over Yale in the NCAA East Regional final Saturday in Bridgeport, Conn. (Fred Beckham / Associated Press)

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