By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
Phil Cook isn’t a history major at Minnesota State, and as a goaltender that’s probably a good thing.
“The past is the past,” the senior said this week.
For Cook, the past has seen the best of times and the worst of times.
The best? Probably the weekend he saved 82 of 85 shots, including a 49-save second-game performance, in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association sweep over Minnesota two seasons ago.
The worst? A rough patch early last season that relegated him to the bench for several weeks.
“Especially the beginning of last year,” he said. “I try not to bring it up.”
Cook recovered from that stretch, which saw him allow nine goals on just 11 shots in a pair of abbreviated appearances, and had a strong second half of the season. In 11 starts over January and February, Cook won seven games, including a shutout of Wisconsin. His goals-against average dropped by more than three goals a game, and his save percentage rose by more than 100 points.
Cook is the likely starter tonight when MSU plays at No. 2 Minnesota, and the Mavericks hope he can play like the goalie of two years ago in Mankato. (He backed up Austin Lee in two games, both losses, at Mariucci Arena last season.)
“We need Cook,” Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said. “Night in and night out. The opportunity is there.”
Cook has started four of the Mavericks’ first six games this season and relieved rookie Stephon Williams in Saturday night’s 5-1 loss at St. Cloud State.
His solid play in MSU’s home-opening weekend allowed the Mavericks to come from behind twice to tie and win a pair of overtime games against Rensselaer. A week later, however, he took the loss in a 5-1 WCHA opener at St. Cloud.
“There are certain expectations of goalies here,” Cook said. “Five goals on 20-some shots both nights is unacceptable.”
For his career, Cook is 27-28-7 with a .899 save percentage and a 3.04 goals-against average.
This week, both Cook and Hastings remembered the coach’s meeting with players during his interview for the coaching job. Cook raised his hand and asked Hastings what his goaltending philosophy is.
It was pretty simple.
“As long as you stop the puck you’re going to play,” Cook recalled Hastings saying.
After getting the gig, Hastings was fond of saying, even with a lot of young talent on the team, his seniors would have to lead the way. Hastings usually mentioned captains Eriah Hayes and Tyler Elbrecht first. But the next name out of his mouth was always Cook.
“He expects a lot from us,” Cook said. “And it’s my senior year; I expect a lot of myself.”