Thomas Hemcher hadn’t played hockey since middle school. So when he walked into Radnor hockey’s first practice this season, he wasn’t expecting to be anything more than a practice goalie.
The senior was coming into a team that had lost All-Delco goalie Lewis Brotman from last season, and promising sophomore Grayson Mameniskis had a solid hold on the starting job.
Just over two months later, it’s suddenly Hemcher’s show.
With Mameniskis’ successful season cut short by a knee injury, Hemcher is the only option between the posts as the Red Raiders venture toward the postseason.
“It’s exciting, but it’s a big challenge,” Hemcher said Monday after a 7-6 loss to Archbishop Carroll. “There aren’t too many high expectations for me.”
His ascension to the starter’s job wasn’t exactly overnight. Mameniskis, who had been stopping pucks at a .884 clip and had accumulated a 5-6-1 record with a 3.17 goals-against average, some of the best stats among netminders in the county, had been suffering a knee injury for some time. A butterfly goalie with outstanding lateral movement, his final performance was an epic 45-save, 2-1 win over Penncrest, only made better by the fact that he did it was a partially torn meniscus that would require season-ending surgery days later.
In stepped Hemcher, who has two games under his belt. He won his debut Feb. 1 against Strath Haven, being tested sparingly in a 23-save outing that the Red Raiders won 9-1. Game No. 2 was significantly tougher.
Against an Archbishop Carroll team regaining its health, he let in seven goals, including four on five shots in a disastrous stretch in the second period that ultimately decided the game. There were bright moments and flashes of solid shot-stopping ability, like the above image, where he proactively pounced on a puck with Shane Yaller, on a hat trick, alone on the doorstep.
But some of the higher-order functions of a goalie, like rebound control, eluded him at times. Both of Yaller’s goals were pucks loose near the goalmouth that the Carroll forward was fastest to.
In Hemcher’s defense, Radnor’s was occasionally lacking. Of the three first-period goals he allowed, each resulted from turnovers or defensive breakdowns. John Parker opened the scoring after Adam Baer fed him on a 2-on-1. The other two markers that period, scored by Ryan Boornazian and Adam Baer, came off turnovers in the neutral zone or near the Radnor blueline.
The Red Raiders have four remaining games, none of them cakewalks: at Penncrest, Garnet Valley, Conestoga and at Haverford (originally schedule for Friday but moved due to snow). It’s more than just Hemcher that needs to improve for Radnor.
“It’s definitely tough losing Grayson as solid as he’s been back there,” forward Will Girton said after the Carroll game. “It’s a pretty tough situation. But it can help us play better defensively. We know if we make mistakes, they can lead to goals.”
The steps are clear for Hemcher as he hopes to improve moving toward the postseason.
“I’ve just got to go to practice this week and keep working,” Hemcher said. “I’ve only practice three times, so it’s just about more time on the ice.”