Minnesota Duluth is in its second week of the NCHC Pod in Omaha, Nebraska, with a showdown looming at 7:35 p.m. Thursday against No. 1-ranked North Dakota at Baxter Arena.
The Bulldogs sit atop the NCHC standings with a 4-0 record and 12 league points. Sophomore goaltender Ryan Fanti was in net for the first three victories, posting a .920 save percentage and 2.33 goals against average in what were not only his first three collegiate starts, but also his first three NCAA regular season games.
The Thunder Bay native and former Minnesota Wilderness goalie joined the News Tribune’s Bulldog Insider Podcast on Wednesday to talk about his first three starts and what life is like in the OmaPod.
Take us through what a off day or day in between games looks like for you in the pod? For example, what does your Wednesday all entail?
“It's been a little different. It changes day-to-day just in regards to school. So this morning, I had class from from 9 a.m. to right before noon here, then hopping on the podcast with you guys. I think most of the guys had class this morning. I'm actually not sure 100%, but we might have COVID testing today or tomorrow. I think we test on the game days. And then we have practice at 3 o'clock. Dinner is a little bit later on. So honestly, days off aren't too quiet, we’re not getting bored. We have finals week next week, so guys are staying pretty busy with that. Just between the rink and testing and practice, it hasn't been too bad.”
We hope it's the only time the NCHC has to revert to a Pod to get a season started, but do you like this kind of schedule where it's games every other day versus the Friday-Saturday of a normal college hockey season?
“I was lucky enough to play the first three games here and I actually don't mind playing a little bit more consistently. From a goaltender’s perspective anyways, I feel like once you get into that second and third game, it didn't take me as long to kind of get into it. You get a little bit more consistency and get a little bit more on a roll. Whereas, if you're playing Friday-Saturday and the following Friday, you're waiting six days in between your next game. I personally don't mind it. I think everyone's been enjoying it at this point. Everyone is not really thinking too much about how much time we have off in between games or whatever it is. We practiced for so long that guys are just really excited to be playing right now.”
Now that you have had some time to reflect on those first three starts, how special were those and what did it mean to finally get that opportunity?
“It was crazy. I talked to a lot of people about how even though I didn't play last year, even for that first time when we played Alberta, I still think about it. I get goosebumps every time. I’m from the Thunder Bay area and coming to Duluth all the time, you grow up watching the Bulldogs play and it was a dream of mine to always play here. I just think back to that first time against Alberta, putting on the jersey for the first time. It’s those couple of seconds where it's like you're a little kid again and you get goosebumps. I kind of related to that my first start there. It was really special for me against Omaha. The first couple minutes and especially starting lineups, it's a real cool experience that you try to take in. But at the same time, you really can't because you're a little nervous. At the start it was very, very cool. Then I think I did a pretty good job at mentally, trying to avoid that mentality and just get dialed in again like it's just another game or another practice. I think it's been working out.”
For more from Ryan Fanti, including how he committed to UMD from a mountaintop in Italy, check out this week’s episode of the Bulldog Insider Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts. New episodes are posted every Thursday. All episodes are being recorded remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bulldog Insider Podcast is co-hosted by Duluth News Tribune sports reporter Matt Wellens and My9 television voice of Bulldog hockey Zach Schneider. Episodes are edited and produced by Duluth News Tribune multimedia producer Samantha Erkkila.