Goaile guru Tapp a valuable asset for Union
SCHENECTADY Keith Kinkaid won ECAC Hockey’s Ken Dryden Award as the league’s top goalie in 2010-11, Troy Grosenick took the honor in 2012, and this year, it was Colin Stevens.
The trio of goalies all have two things in common — they play for Union, and they learned under the tutelage of assistant coach Jason Tapp.
Under those three goalies, Union won three ECAC Hockey regular-season and tournament titles and played in four straight NCAA tournaments. The top-ranked Dutchmen (30-6-4) are making their second Frozen Four appearance in three years. They will face Boston College in the semifinals at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
“I think I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with three really talented kids that came to work every day and wanted to get better and listened,” Tapp said. “I think it was 99 percent them, and maybe 1 percent of that I was a small portion of it. Their work ethic was bar none. It was fantastic.”
Tapp certainly knows the position, having played goal for Boston University from 1998-2002. He is in fifth year with the Dutchmen, starting as a volunteer assistant coach in 2009-10 under head coach Nate Leaman. Shortly after Rick Bennett was promoted from associate head coach to head coach following Leaman’s departure to Providence after the end of 2010-11 season, he made Tapp an assistant.
“I had talked to Nate a little bit, but obviously, it was my decision,” Bennett said. “My relationship with Jason when I was an associate head coach was excellent, and I was the last guy to meet him because I was recruiting. It seemed like a month later, I got to meet him. I found him an honest, family guy, sincere and a ton of pride.”
Tapp runs goalie sessions before the regular practice begins.
“Usually, Tuesdays are more foundation work,” Tapp said. “Thursday, it’s more geared towards the opponent and what we’re going to see, depending on who we play. We game plan on what they might see during the weekend.”
In his two seasons with Union, Kinkaid was 37-18-6 with a 2.18 goals-against average, a .917 save percentage and four shutouts. Not only did he win the Dryden, he was an All-American.
“He was there to help you fix what needed to be fixed,” said Kinkaid, who plays for the Albany Devils. “He made you battle each day and give it your all and never to slack on the ice.”
Grosenick, who played in just three games in 2010-11, took over the following year. All he did was post a 22-6-3 record with a 1.65 GAA, a .936 save percentage and five shutouts. Grosenick, who plays for the Worcester Sharks, was a Hobey Baker top-10 finalist and an All-American.
“I was really happy to have him all three years I was there,” said Grosenick, who had a 39-16-9 career record with a 1.89 GAA, a .930 save percentage and seven shutouts.
Stevens, the junior from Niskayuna, is having an incredible first season as the No. 1 goalie. He is 26-4-2 with a 1.93 GAA, a .932 save percentage and a team-record six shutouts.
“Obviously, coach Tapp has been huge for me, personally,” Stevens said. “He’s worked with me for a number of years. He knows all my strengths and weaknesses. He knows my style really well. I can’t say enough of what he’s done for me, how much he’s helped me and I wouldn’t be the goalie I am without him.”
Tapp isn’t just focusing on the goalies. He’s involved in the other aspects of the team.
“I get a lot of enjoyment out of it,” Tapp said. “I want to evolve as a coach. Having Rick let me have the reins for the ‘D’ has been great for my development. I take pride in working with the ‘D.’ Obviously, doing scouting reports helps out the forwards.”
Bennett doesn’t want to see Tapp labeled as just a goalie guru.
“Jason’s been here an awfully long time now, so he knows what he’s doing as far as what it takes to win in this league, what the goaltenders need to do,” Bennett said. “They’re very well prepared through Jason. But the ironic thing about this whole thing is he’s just not a goaltending guy. He works our defensemen, and he does a phenomenal job there. He offers a lot of insight from the offensive side, too, because when you’re watching the defense game and your goalies, sometimes you’re realizing what your forwards need to do. That’s underrated. He’s very sharp like that.”
It’s been a whirlwind few days for Tapp. He became a father for the third time Tuesday when his wife, ABC10 (WTEN) news anchor and reporter Nicol Lally, gave berth to a son, Kellen William. The couple has two daughters, Ella and Avery.
“It’s been a little hectic the last few days, but we’ve got a pretty good support staff,” Tapp said.