Hockey | A new record: 2,188 and counting

Since senior Scott Barchard arrived on the Hill in 2008, he has slowly but surely rewritten the ice hockey record books.

Most saves in a game? Check, with 63 against Saint Anselm College on Dec. 5, 2009. Most saves in a season? Been there, done that — twice, in fact — with 862 during his freshman year and 986 during his sophomore campaign.

Those last two totals put Barchard on pace to take over the program’s career saves record in less than three seasons. Held by his predecessor James Kalec (LA ’08), the mark of 2,166 career stops was just 318 away entering his junior year.

But just four games and 116 saves into 2010−11, Barchard’s ankle gave out, and the injury — which initially seemed like a mild sprain — ultimately required season−ending surgery.

“It has been tough,” said Barchard of the road back to the ice. “The rehab process — it’s been a lot of work, and it’s a testament to the training staff here that I’m ready to play this season.”

Classmate Evin Koleini, who started 13 games in Barchard’s stead last season and posted an .877 save percentage, came to appreciate how difficult it is to deny shots at the record .933 clip that Barchard had posted to that point in his Tufts career.

“It’s really draining, both mentally and physically, because he faces probably by far the most shots of anyone in the NESCAC,” Koleini said. “That puts pressure on you throughout the game, and it makes maintaining the kind of save percentage that he has really hard.”

Despite all the accolades — including three conference Player of the Week honors and spots on the All−NESCAC First Team and the All−American First Team his sophomore year — and his record−breaking pace, Barchard stayed grounded. He knows that in hockey, a promising attack past the opponent’s blue line can turn into a breakaway toward his own net in seconds, making constant focus paramount.

“It was the last thing on my mind going into this weekend,” Barchard said of the career saves record. “We had two tough NESCAC games against Williams and Middlebury approaching, and I was much more concerned about that.”

On Saturday, in the second period of the seventh game of the 2011−12 campaign, Barchard overtook Kalec, and he went on to make 41 total saves, keeping Tufts within striking distance in an eventual 3−2 loss to Middlebury. But to Barchard, the record is barely a bright spot on an otherwise disappointing doubleheader.

“The record will probably mean something to me looking back at the end of the season, but right now it doesn’t really mean anything,” he said. “After losing the two games, I’m just looking forward to getting back to practice on Monday.”

A tri−captain this season — after serving as a quad−captain during his injury−shortened junior year — Barchard continues to be an important leader on the team, even though he’s still getting back into the swing of things after nearly a year away from competitive action at the collegiate level.

“I told the guys when I first came back to practice that I felt like a freshman again,” he said. “But I love playing hockey, and I’m thankful that I’m able to do that with this team.”

Barchard’s focus in practice and his growth during his time at Tufts has not only elevated his own level of play, but also rubbed off on his teammates.

“Watching Scott, one of the things that stands out is his ability to read the attacks developing in front of him,” Koleini said. “He’s one of the best goalies in the NESCAC, and I think it’s his concentration that really helps him get to that level.”

“I think over the course of four years, the biggest change I’ve seen is Scott’s ability to shake off a goal, or a bad bounce, or a rough game, and get right back to where he needs to be mentally and physically, “senior forward Matt Amico, one of Barchard’s fellow tri−captains, added. “As a freshman, that is a very difficult thing to do, but now he shows up to the rink every day ready to go and is always having a good time.”

Barchard’s historic success is the product of the balance he has found between staying focused and staying loose. When Barchard stares down his first shot in next Friday’s matchup at Bowdoin, the past weekend’s results — from the disappointing losses to the impressive record — will be firmly in the past.

“No matter how many of them you have made, you’re only as good as your next save,” he said. “You always have to be ready and be aggressive. Nothing you have done before means anything if you let that next one through.”