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Elliott’s season one for the ages

first_imgOne year ago, I wrote a column commending Bernd Brückler for one of the best seasons by a goaltender in the history of Wisconsin hockey. He posted a .914 save percentage and a 2.40 goals against average, both numbers good enough to crack the top ten in the record book.He closed out his career with the second-best save percentage and the best GAA any Badger net-minder has ever posted.And we’re talking about a record book at a Goaltender U. It includes names like Curtis Joseph, Mike Richter and Jim Carey among a variety of others.That record book will have to make room for another great goaltender. UW junior Brian Elliott just turned in the best season ever by a Wisconsin goalie.The biggest question heading into the season turned out to be one of the most important answers for how the Badgers won their sixth national championship.Back in August, I asked the team how they were going to replace Brückler. Their answer was as quick as it was confident. Elliott was ready.I wasn’t quite as sure. Yes, I had seen him post some great numbers, but he did so mostly against less-talented teams. Surely, he couldn’t garner the same statistics over a full season of work.I was wrong.He earned similar numbers and carried the Badgers to their first NCAA title since 1990. Despite the WCHA coaches failing to name him first-team all-WCHA, he was one of the three Hobey Baker finalists for the best individual award in college hockey.Though he didn’t win the award, his season should not be soon forgotten. At the same time, it is important to take time to sift through the numbers and realize just how impressive his season was.It is easy to get wrapped up in the variety of other storylines — a special senior class, a national title for each of the Burish siblings, etc. Those stories are important and great, don’t get me wrong. After all, the fact that Elliott’s style isn’t the flashiest makes it easy to overlook the magnificence of his year.Shane Connelly gave us a couple of highlight reel saves. Fans will probably remember his flailing stick-save more than any particular save of Elliott’s.Elliott’s season was special because he was never forced to make such a save. And his numbers speak for themselves.He finished with a record of 27-5-3, the best winning percentage in the country. His 25 wins in one season rank fourth all-time at UW.For the season, he posted a .938 save percentage. I haven’t taken a math class since high school, but stopping nearly 94 percent of the shots you see is pretty phenomenal. The mark blows Brückler’s .924 mark from the 2003-04 season — which was the old record — out of the water.Elliott’s new UW record is also tied for fifth in the NCAA record book for the lowest save percentage in a season.But that is nothing compared to his goals against average. He allowed just 1.55 goals per game over the course of the entire season. Wisconsin had never seen a goaltender post a mark lower than 2.09 goals per game in a season, which Brückler did in his junior year.Prior to this year, the record for shutouts in a season was four and the mark for career shutouts was nine.He smoked the record with eight blankings this year and now has 11 in his UW career.But it’s not all about statistics, it is about winning as well. His .814 winning percentage is the fourth-best ever in a UW season, behind only Marc Behrend, who owns both the record and third-place mark, and second-place holder Julian Baretta.However, neither of them ever played in more than 25 games in a season. Elliott played in 35 this year.When he was down with an injured leg midway through the season, the Badgers went 3-5-0 without him in net.The accolades could go on and on, but the point is that no goaltender in Wisconsin history has ever had a season like we saw out of Elliott this year.As the celebration of the national championship continues, take time to also celebrate one of the greatest seasons by a goalie in college hockey history.He has already left his name all over the Wisconsin record books, and barring an early departure to the NHL, his work here isn’t over.Share your favorite Brian Elliott moment by e-mailing Eric at eschmoldt@badgerherald.comlast_img read more