View From Section U: Brian Regan’s Legacy

Paul Dainton has a chance to become the all-time saves leader at UMass by the season’s end. With an additional 288 saves, or about 29 saves over 10 games (assuming Teglia sees another four starts), he’ll set the high mark for the program, eclipsing the 3,050 by Brian Regan. But just who is Brian Regan? Many fans who didn’t start following UMass hockey until the early 00’s when Toot Cahoon got here may not know of him. In UMass goaltender lore of course everyone knows current NHL netminder Jon Quick. And people will remember Gabe Winer who came up big in big games and nearly outdueled Jimmy Howard in the Hockey East Championship. Some may even remember Timmy Warner who subbed for an injured Winer to set up that epic championship battle in 2004. But even at the onset of the modern era UMass has had some flat out amazing goalies who may not get the attention they deserve because they played on some pretty bad teams. Skilled players who came up with some outstanding individual efforts from that triangle era, guys like Mike Johnson, Markus Helanen, and Brian Regan.

It’s easy to look at Regan’s career numbers from the years he was at Amherst, 1994-1998, and think he was a mediocre to poor goaltender. His career goals against was 4.33 and never had a season where he was sub-4.00. His career record was 25-68-13, had a save percentage of .872 (never had a season over .900) and only had two career shutouts (or one more than Dan Meyers). But the numbers do not tell the story. His freshman season was 1994-95, the program’s inaugural in Hockey East and only the second year coming back from hiatus. The team went 6-28-2 that year and gave up 6 or more goals in 15 of their games. While some of it was goaltending, a lot of it was the players in front of the goaltender as well. This team was trying to make the transition into an elite DI conference in an extremely short amount of time and experienced some pretty big growing pains in doing so. I loved those old triangle-clad players and have a lot of fond memories of watching them play, but a lot of times the overall talent level just wasn’t up to Hockey East standards.

That may not be the case with Regan however. It didn’t take long for him, a 10th round draft pick of the Whalers, to show his stuff and take over the starting job from Dave Kilduff who had started the year before. By mid-season Regan was already starting his tradition of standing on his head and putting up insane save totals to try to keep UMass in the games and occasionally pulling off the upset. None of those instances was bigger than January 28th, 1995 when he made 51 saves to defeat top ranked Maine in what’s still one of the most improbable upsets ever. Regan would go on that year to be named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team.

That was pretty much Regan’s entire career. Putting up huge save totals, sometimes squeaking a win out, but a lot of times losing 4-1 or 5-2. If the save record is broken, there is unfortunately one of Regan’s that will not. Most career losses with 68. But it’s tough to say it was because he didn’t stop enough rubber. Only Jon Quick made more saves per game (29.0) than Regan (28.2). Paul Dainton has only had to make 25.5 per game while Gabe Winer only made 22.2 in his career.

Radio commentator, and unofficial UMass hockey historian, Brock Hines was nice enough to share his memorable Brian Regan moment with Fear The Triangle. Here’s what he had to offer.

This game is one of my favorite UMass moments, never mind Brian Regan moments. Maine in 1995 & 2003, BU in 2002, Clarkson in the NCAAs, all great games but winnable with the talent on hand and there were no expectations with beating #1 Maine in year one of Hockey East.

But this was just another game in late February with an asterisk. It was the only game, I THINK, of any sport played at the Mullins Center broadcasted on live local TV (channel 40 with their announcers). But aside from that hype, it was a Sunday afternoon of hockey in Amherst and the Minutemen were coming off a 7-3 loss (a set up similar to the Maine scenario above in 1995) in Durham two days earlier. I have the audio, Joe & I talked in the pregame show about the Nick Stephens, Dean Campanale and Dan Juden line and how well they play up there and needed to do the same today, but the reason we couldn’t stay close Friday night was that Brian Regan had an off game up there and “he would be the key” if UMass stood a chance of pulling off the monumental upset. UMass was 2-16-1 in Hockey East and still alive to catch Merrimack for the last playoff spot, incredibly.

Regan was phenomenal that day, stopping 38 of 41 UNH shots, with 25-30 of them grade A and against the likes of guys like Mark Mowers & Jason Krog. We had Bobby Orr’s nephew Jeff Blanchard and Dean Stork, now head coach of the ECHL’s Greenville SC Road Warriors on that team among others. We scored 1:16 into the first period but trailed 3-2 in the third. UNH outshot us 17-5 in that third period with Brian coming up huge. Two of our five shots beat Sean Matile and the Stephens GWG at 15:40 was a gem and one of the great goals calls of all time by Ted Baker.

Regan was the #1 Star in the building that afternoon….Sunday 2-22-1998. And as we said after the game was played, ironically, the 18th anniversary of the Miracle On Ice. As small a miracle as it was….it was kinda cool.

An infamous “why they play the game moment”.

Brock even included this to go with his story (click for a closer look):

If you look closely you can see the attendance was 1,827. Likely one of the bigger crowds of the season with a highly ranked UNH team in town. Now that’s the triangle era I remember.

Regan went on to play in the minors after graduation and even had a nice stretch with the Philadelphia Phantoms of the AHL before retiring in 2004.

I’m rooting hard for Dainton to break the record, partially because he’s been dependable over the years and a great representative of the UMass program and partially because the more saves he makes the better the team’s chance at success. However as he nears it I’ll be thinking about Regan. How hard he played. The amount of shots he saw each and every night. The unbelievable saves he was able to come up with. But in the end his save record is just a number…and Brian Regan was always dramatically better than his numbers.

A bit of breaking news tonight. Wahsontiio Stacey, UVM’s leading scorer, has left the team. Catamount Coach Kevin Sneddon says Stacey leaving won’t have much of an impact, but he has accounted for 21% of their goals this season, so you decide. In the short term, will his absence help the Minutemen or does the team rally around each other in the wake of his departure? Should be interesting.

Logan Roe, who I wrote UMass had interest in last June, has committed to Canisius. It seems a little odd that the article mentioned last summer listed Hockey East and ECAC schools pursuing Roe but he ends up in Atlantic Hockey.

Dick Baker has an interesting blog post about how he likes how Hockey East differentiates itself from the other conferences. Namely that not all teams get into the playoffs and that the league doesn’t use shootouts. I agree on both accounts. Obviously the races for the conference crown and home ice dominate come February and March, but those teams scrambling just to make it in also keep things interesting. Hell, it’s one of the few reasons to check out the standings after each and every game right now as a UMass fan.

And I hate shootouts. It’s an individual skills competition to decide who wins and loses. It’d be like having a home run derby after the 10th inning in baseball to select the winner. Ties aren’t ideal, but I’ll take them.