University of Maine sophomore goalie Scott Darling once idolized University of New Hampshire senior goalie Brian Foster.
“I was young. He was a freshman at UNH and I was a third-string goalie in the North American Hockey League,” said Darling, who has worked out with Foster at a goaltending camp in Andover, Mass., for the past six summers.
“It was a big deal to get a win over him last year [1-0],” said Darling. “That’s when I realized we were at the same level.”
The two friends will renew their rivalry this weekend when Maine hosts league-leading New Hampshire for a two-game set at Alfond Arena.
“We know each other pretty well,” said Foster. “We’ve worked together in the summer and we also compete against each other. There is such a rivalry between Maine and New Hampshire and [their friendship] puts even more excitement into it.”
There is a mutual admiration between them.
“He is a really good goalie,” said Foster. “We definitely learn from each other. I take things from him that I need to improve on and I’m sure it’s likewise for him.”
“Brian’s like a machine out there the way he moves,” said Darling. “He’s a great goalie to watch play.”
Darling agreed that their friendship will make the series “a little more interesting.
“It won’t be just New Hampshire against Maine, it will be Darling against Foster,” said Darling.
Foster feels their styles are similar but Darling feels there are differences.
“I don’t think there’s too much of a difference,” said Foster. “With goaltending the way it is now, a lot of goalies are doing the same thing. Scott and I work on the same things so we’re pretty similar.
“He definitely uses his size [6-foot-5] to his advantage. He has a big reach and is able to reach pucks some goalies aren’t able to. But he’s also quick. He moves well for his size. He comes up with big saves.”
“We’re a little bit different. Brian is more robotic. He has perfect footwork and perfect technique and that’s why he’s so successful,” said Darling.
Foster is 6-2.
Both goalies have been playing extremely well of late.
Foster was the Hockey East Goalie of the Month for December and January while Darling hasn’t lost since a 4-3 setback to Boston College on Nov. 20. He has gone 11 games without a loss and bounced back from a knee injury with a 6-3 win and 4-4 tie at Vermont last weekend.
Each goalie has good numbers in the rivalry.
Foster is 3-1 with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage in four starts against Maine while Darling is 1-1 with a 2.17 GAA and a .919 save percentage in three appearances against UNH.
“They’re both great goalies and they’re going to see a bunch of shots. It will be a battle,” said UNH senior right wing and scoring leader Bobby Butler.
“It’s a big rivalry. You don’t understand it until you get to [experience] it. You circle it on your calendar. There’s a good feeling in the locker room. Everybody is jacked up. We practice really hard all week to make sure we’re ready,” said Darling.
“We’re all definitely looking forward to it,” said Foster, who considers Alfond Arena among his favorite opposing rinks. “It’s definitely exciting. The crowd really gets into it and that makes for a great atmosphere. I’m sure playing there back-to-back nights will be pretty interesting.”
UNH has won the last five games at Alfond Arena.”