Moon junior Durkin becomes feisty shotstopper after subpar ’13-14 season
Though he can’t quite place his finger on how he improved most as a goaltender during the past year-plus, Moon junior Ryan Durkin has excelled at putting his body in front of pucks this season.
Among starting netminders in PIHL Class AA, none rank higher than Durkin in save percentage (92.8), goals-against average (2.0) or shutouts (three).
His ascendance after an underwhelming 2013-14 campaign in which he stopped less than 80 percent of shots faced, paired with the team’s embrace of a gritty, defense-first style, explain Moon’s 8-3 record just past the halfway point of the season.
Other than his humility, there’s not much about Durkin that reminds the Tigers of the goalie who allowed 56 goals in 10 appearances a season ago.
“Where you really started to see the difference was when we started practices this year,” coach Scott Kubatka said. “Our style of play emphasizes a lot of net play, and you could see him battling in front of the net. He elevated his competition level in practice, and he carried it over into games.
“(Last season), he was a little lackadaisical, a little laid back as a goalie. Now when you see him in the net, he battles to cover the puck and control his rebounds.”
When he recovered from a broken right wrist in the middle of the 2013-14 season, Durkin jumped into a starting lineup that already had endured its share of struggle. And life with the then-sophomore in net remained miserable for the Tigers, who finished with a 5-16-1 record.
“We just needed to work a lot harder,” Durkin said. “I think that we got outworked a lot last year, and I don’t think we wanted that to happen this year.”
Discussing his own progress, he added: “I just tried to improve my work ethic a lot.”
Diminutive in stature, he started lifting weights, doing dry-land training and attending goalie camps. He built himself up to 5-foot-9 and 140 pounds — still not big, but better.
And to go with his physical strength, Durkin improved his mental toughness, too.
“I’ve been trying to do a lot better at keeping my head in the game,” he said. “Last year, getting blown out a lot, it was kind of hard to stay focused.”
Moon sent a message to the rest of Class AA in its season opener when it hung close to 2013-14 Class AA finalist Erie Cathedral Prep (10-2) in a 3-2 loss.
The Tigers’ 23 goals allowed rank lowest among Class AA teams. Yet Durkin and the defense remain busy — Durkin’s 283 saves is fourth highest in AA.
“We keep the shots to the outside,” Kubatka said. “Our philosophy with the defensemen — and we really drive it home — is Ryan is responsible for the first save, and our guys have to be there for the rebound.”
Seniors Justin Bioni, Austin Murphy and Heston Briant; juniors Trey Kirksey and Tony Dalesio; and sophomore Joe Sell ensure Durkin sees few high-percentage shots. They found few reasons to object to Kubatka’s no-frills, protect-the-crease philosophy when the wins followed.
“We’re doing it well and really grinding at it,” said Bioni, the team’s captain. “I’m surprised we’re doing really good. From last year, I thought everybody got down, and I didn’t think everybody would play their best this year. But it’s actually turned out really good.”