By John R. Johnson
As a youngster in Hanover, Doug Carr was often coerced to play goal when he and his brothers laced up their skates at the local pond, or played a neighborhood game of street hockey.
So it goes with being the little brother.
“I always wanted to play with the older kids, so they shoved me into the net,’’ said Carr, now 22.
“I haven’t left the goal since.’’
The days that he spent being peppered with pucks by his brothers, Ryan and Greg, prepared him well for his current role as a sophomore goalie at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and the rigors of Hockey East.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Carr backboned the River Hawks to a pair of wins at the University of Maine last weekend, Lowell’s first sweep at Alfond Arena since 1985.
“It was exciting for our young guys to get that experience, because playing at Alfond so closely mimics playoff hockey,’’ said first-year UMass-Lowell coach Norm Bazin. “It’s no easy task to come away from there with four points, but Doug had a very strong weekend. He played consistently and that’s something that we’re looking for as a team.’’
Carr made 61 saves in the two-game series, turning away 30 shots in a 5-3 win on Friday night before making 31 more in a 4-3 victory on Saturday, in which Lowell rallied from a 2-0 deficit entering the third period.
Carr (4-1 record, 2.20 goals-against average) has won his last three starts, including a 7-1 decision against Boston University. The River Hawks (5-3, 3-2 Hockey East) have already equaled their win total from last season.
“We’ve been having trouble scoring the first goal in a lot of our games, so we’ve had to rely on our defense and on Doug,’’ said Riley Wetmore, who is leading the team in scoring (6 goals, 3 assists). “Doug definitely kept us in the games early against Maine, which was crucial.’’
Carr has been somewhat of a net nomad since high school. He played his freshman season at BC High before transferring to Hanover High, although he bypassed the Indians to play junior hockey for the Bridgewater Bandits during his sophomore and junior seasons. Carr laced up for Hanover High as a senior, leading the Indians to the Division 2 state championship in 2007.
Carr took the route traveled by many high school players after graduating, opting to play at the junior hockey level. He skated in the Eastern Junior Hockey League for two seasons, then hooked on with the Cornwall Colts of the Central Junior A Hockey League in Ontario for one season.
Carr was named the CJHL Goaltender of the Year after posting a 27-6-1 record with a 2.50 GAA, numbers that caught the attention of college scouts in the market for a 21-year-old freshman goalie.
“That’s when I started to get a lot of calls and a lot of schools came up to see me play,’’ said Carr.
“Growing up on the South Shore, I knew I wanted to play locally. I visited Lowell and it just felt like the right fit from day one.’’
Carr, who grew up idolizing Bruins Hall of Famer Ray Bourque, navigated the recruitment process with some help from another familiar name, former BU goaltender Tom Noble, a Hanover native who backstopped the Terriers to the NCAA title in 1995.
“We were good family friends with the Nobles and Tom would give me his old goalie sticks when we went to their house,’’ Carr said.
“I’d go to the games at BU and he’d bring me in the locker room to meet all the players. Tom helped me a lot during the recruiting process when I was in Canada, and told me what to expect during my college visits and what to look out for as a goalie. I’d say he was my role model growing up and he’s probably the reason I’m here in the pipes today.’’
Carr started 20 games as a freshman, posting a 4-15-3 record with a 3.63 GAA and .896 save percentage. Entering this season, there was a healthy competition among Carr, sophomore Marc Boulanger, and freshman Brian Robbins for the starting position.
“We’ve pretty well left it up in the air in terms of it being an ongoing battle,’’ Bazin said of the competition at goalie. “It’s very important for us to give Doug support defensively and that can be challenging at times with an inexperienced unit (three sophomores and two freshmen). So at times you need your goalie to step up, and Doug has done that.
“He’s a strong 6-foot-2, and with his size he looks very big in net when he’s playing aggressively. When he’s on top of his crease he can be a pretty daunting goalie to play against.’’