The player came down to hit a one-timer, and Matteo was forced to make a split-decision to try to save the shot. But as the puck crossed the goal line, he instantly regretted his choice.
“There’s definitely those one-goal games where I’m like, ‘If I moved or did a certain thing in that way, it wouldn’t have been the outcome,’ so it definitely goes through my head,” Matteo said.
Though, these thoughts don’t just occur when the game is over and there’s time to reflect. Goalies’ minds are flooded with “what-if’s” the second they’re scored on.
But the game doesn’t pause. There’s no waking up.
“If I let it get to me, then it’s just going to go downhill really quick and I know that, so I definitely have to keep it together,” Matteo said.
Goalies have to remember their mistakes enough to correct them for the next shot, while also not dwelling on them or getting caught up in the emotions too much, or else they won’t be able to focus on the next play.
That’s when one goal sneaking by can lead to a second that the goalie was just a half-second too slow to save. Then a third gets tipped in far-side. Then a fourth slips under the pads on a dive. Then a fifth gets lifted in from a rebound shot.
Then all of a sudden, one goal becomes five.
“They may think we’re negative a lot, but it’s because we have to deal with the continuous put-down of like, if you’re continuously scored on, you’re like, ‘Wow I’m not good,’” Keefe said.
While defenders try to help goalies stay out of their heads, there’s only so much they can do from the outside looking in. There’s only one person who watched the play through a cage with thoughts racing beneath a helmet: the goalie.
They’re the ones who know the gut-wrenching reality of being at the mercy of a shot. They must throw themselves around, even reaching and bending in ways that challenge the flexibility of the human body at times.
They do this to make the save – or in other words, to be pelted with a hard object flying toward them at full speed. Their own health is not the priority. The priority is what’s best for the team.
Sometimes that means rushing out of the goal area to dive at an opposing player who’s sprinting on a breakaway. A goalie’s face can be just inches away from a swinging stick or a puck that has just been drilled into the air. Then they often collide with the player, dropping that individual to ground-level with them.
“I love taking people out,” Morehouse said.
“It’s not because I want to hurt anyone, just because it’s one, more helpful for the angle and more helpful for the goal not to be scored against. And also it’s just like the spotlight is on you – it’s you and that breakaway person.”
Everyone watches these moments as if they’re a short film unfolding on a big screen. Although it can be thrilling to come up with a diving save on a breakaway, that spotlight doesn’t fade away if the individual fails to stop the shot.
But, they have to keep going.
“You beat yourself up a little because you’re like, ‘Ah, that sucked,’ but you’ve got to snap back during games,” Morehouse said. “But then afterwards, all I do is think back like, ‘That’s my fault,’ ‘That’s my fault,’ ‘That’s my fault.”’
Though, she reminds herself of the bigger picture after she’s scored on, to try to move forward with a clear head. It’s the other team’s job to score.
“I know that if it’s at me and I’m making the saves and I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing and they still get by me, it’s just, that’s their job,” she added.
The goalie’s job is simple: don’t let the ball cross the goal line. What’s not as obvious is how isolating the role can be.
If there’s a face-off, the other players are by the goal for a few seconds, communicating with their goalie. Though once the puck drops, the players break out up ice.
But the goalie doesn’t. He stays between the pipes – alone.
“There’s no one there. There’s no one to talk to, there’s no one to keep you focused. You’ve just got to focus on the game,” Matteo said.
Staying in the game mentally isn’t as simple as just tracking the ball or puck. It’s also knowing where every player is, who’s marking who, communicating with the defenders, staying on angle to stop the next shot, and calculating when to risk coming out of the goal.
“It’s definitely a hyper-focused position almost, because I have to pay attention to so many moving parts at one time,” Keefe said. “It’s a lot going on at once, but that’s why I like it.”