By MAT SCHLISSEL
Junior goaltender Andrew Wascavage came into the 2012 season as an untested, inexperienced veteran.
Although he had appeared in eight games in his career, Wasavage saw mainly mop-up duty, making 10 saves, while recording a 33.3% save percentage.
The Tigers opened the 2012 season with no true starting goaltender. Travis Love was coming into his final season, but missed the opener. Wascavage got the start at Jacksonville and recorded eight saves as the Tigers won their opener.
Wascavage earned a start in the next game at Johns Hopkins as the Tigers fell, 12-6. Wascavage made 12 saves as the Tigers were outshot 42-18 and had problems clearing the ball (17-of-25) and turnovers (21).
After the loss to the Blue Jays, Coach Shawn Nadelen decided to rotate the two goalies for the next few games with mixed results. The Tigers fell to Loyola on the road, 13-6 and beat Mount St. Mary's, 10-8. After a long break, fell at home to Navy, 10-6.
The turning point for Wascavage and the Tigers occurred on March 17, when they travelled to Stony Brook and defeated the Seawolves, 10-9. Wascavage played three quarters and made 11 saves as the Tigers were once again outshot, 41-25. But this win would serve as a springboard to the biggest winning streak since 2010.
Towson defeated Mercer, 17-8 on March 21. Then on March 24, Wascavage went the entire way for the first time since the Hopkins game and the Tigers arguably played their most consistent game of the season, beating defending CAA champion Delaware, 13-8.
After the game, Nadelen admitted that he was pleased with his goaltender, who struggled some in the first quarter after the Tigers led 4-3.
"I thought Andrew had a rough first quarter," said Nadelen. "He looked more comfortable in the second quarter and made some strong saves. He seemed hot and we wanted to stay with him. Travis (Love) wasn't even looking to play."
On the following Saturday, Towson came from behind to defeat Hofstra, 10-9. After being down by six goals in the fourth quarter, the Tigers pulled out a 10-9 victiry in double overtime. In the historic comeback, Wascavage faced 30 shots and made 10 saves, including several from point-blank range.
On Wednesday, April 4, Wascavage put together his best game of the season, making 17 saves against UMBC as the Tigers won their fifth straight game, downing the Retrievers, 12-11.
"He was fantastic," said Nadelen after the UMBC game. "When he couldn't get his stick on it, he put his body was on it, face, foot. He'll need an ice bath for the next few days. Getting 17 saves is unbelievable. That's the reason why we were able to stay in the game."
The Tigers were outshot in the UMBC game, 42-30.
Unfortunately, that became a trend over the next three games. Wascavage somehow kept his team in most of those games, as the offense sputtered against UMass, Penn State, and Drexel on Saturday night.
In those three losses, Wascavage faced 153 shots (Towson took 68 shots) and managed to record 53 saves, including a career-high 21 against Drexel.
He also went toe-to-toe with the three most accomplished goaltenders in the CAA in Mark Manos of Drexel, Austin Kaut of Penn State and Tim McCormack of the Minutemen. Wascavage more than held his own against some of the best stoppers in the nation.
"I try to concentrate on what I have to do when I go out there," said Wascavage after the Drexel game. "The whole conference is full of some of the best goalies in the country and every game is a competition. I finally got my chance to come out and play and I'm just trying to play as hard as I can."
Wascavage owns a 56.5% save percentage after the Drexel game and has recorded 139 saves. If the season ended today, the 56.5% would put him fourth all-time in save percentage for a season and he's 56 saves away from making the top 10 all-time for most saves in a season.
He is third in the Colonial Athletic Association in save percentage (.565) and saves per game (10.69).
As the Tigers look to get back on track against St. Joseph's on Saturday at 12:30 pm in Philadelphia, they know they can rely on Wascavage to stand up against a few shots - or a lot.