Michigan Tech’s Kero, Beydoun, Munson stay ready in case name is called

From left, Michigan Tech’s Devin Kero, Robbie Beydoun and Patrick Munson have all spent time in net for the Huskies this season. Head coach Joe Shawhan said it will still be starter by committee going forward. (David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette)

HOUGHTON — Patrick “Packy” Munson is getting pretty good at starting over. He also knows how to figure out when something isn’t right. 

Munson started his collegiate career at Vermont, where after his freshman season, the young goalie knew he wasn’t happy, so he made a change and transferred to the University of Denver. But that wasn’t right either. He wanted a better opportunity to play, and the net in Denver was well occupied. At Michigan Tech, Munson knew he’d have a fighting chance.  

Being a goalie is part of Munson’s identity and has been since he started playing hockey. He chose the net for no reason other than wanting to be the guy that his teammates jumped on when celebrating a win. The ability and desire to stop pucks came later.

Now Tech is where Munson is supposed to be. Partly because he’s out of options, but mostly because when he met his new teammates, it just felt right.   

“I don’t think I can transfer again,” he joked. “But coming here the guys were so welcoming and made it really easy to transition. It didn’t really feel like a new team.” 

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For Devin Kero, Michigan Tech was really the only school that mattered. He grew up in Houghton, spending weekends watching the Huskies and playing goalie so his older brother Tanner could practice his shots with someone in the net. Eventually, his brother graduated from shooting on Devin to shooting for the team they grew up watching. Then, when it was Devin’s turn to pick a school, the choice was easy. 

“Skating out onto our home ice is extra special,” the junior said. “The pep band is going, the fans are going, and being a local kid there is a lot of local support. You feel all of that when you go out there.”

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Freshman Robbie Beydoun is a natural goalie. When he hit the ice as a youngster, Beydoun ran into a slight problem. He was good at every position, but there was always someone better. Beydoun needed to find his niche. 

Then, one day, it was his turn to play goalie. Beydoun had experience playing street hockey with his older cousins, who would often throw him into the net when no one else wanted the position. He tapped into that experience, and from then on was a staple in the net. 

“I tried playing goalie and I was really good at it right off the bat. It was weird,” he said. “Ever since then, I demanded to keep playing goalie, I didn’t let anyone else try it.”

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Now, Munson, Kero and Beydoun have collided at Tech, finding themselves in an unusual situation. Through 11 games, each has made at least one start, and Tech doesn’t have a true starter. Instead, head coach Joe Shawhan takes it week by week — something he said isn’t likely to change in the foreseeable future. 

“We judge every goalie every week based on how they are performing,” Shawhan said. “I think it is our obligation to play the guys that we feel are performing the best. We will see on Friday night who had the best week of practice.”

Munson has spent the most time on the ice, starting eight games and appearing in nine. He’s allowed 3.17 goals a game with a .895 save percentage. 

Beydoun made one start before an early goal sent him to the bench after just over 9 minutes. Shawhan said he regretted pulling the freshman, and instead wishes he would have “let Robbie grow through it.”

Kero has started the last two games, and though Tech lost both contests, Shawhan said he was impressed with Kero’s play.

The uncertainty provides for healthy competition each week, but this isn’t a locker room controversy. There is no animosity brewing between the three net-minders. Instead, they find themselves in a kind of brotherhood. Because no one understands a goalie quite like another goalie. 

That means when one guy gets a start, the other two go into support mode, handing the starter water on the bench and providing him advice when needed. 

“Obviously everyone wants to be the starter, but at the same time when someone else is getting the nod, you want to support them,” Kero said. “It is bigger than yourself, it is a team sport, so you want to do whatever you can, whether you are playing or not, to help the team.”

But make no mistake, they aren’t just playing cheerleader. All three are ready to get in the net at any given moment. 

“This is unique because not too many schools use three goalies,” Beydoun said. “It kind of keep us all on our toes and makes sure we do our best in practice every day and makes sure we are earning it.” 

That’s part of the reason that the three goalies get along so well. They know they’re in a tough spot. After all, being in the net is challenging enough without the constant wonder of who is going to start. Mental toughness is vital to the position.

“There is nowhere to hide as a goalie,” Kero said. “Say you are a forward or a defenseman and you make a subtle mistake, it may not get noticed, but anytime someone scores it gets noticed, whether you think you could have stopped it or not. When the game is on the line, you are either there to make a save or you get scored on.”

Over time, goalies develop a short memory. They also learn to stamp out nerves. 

Now, the trio rarely gets rattled in the net, but that wasn’t always the case. Munson remembers his first collegiate start at Vermont. It took his opponent 10 minutes to get a shot off, and Munson was anything but calm.

“My legs where uncontrollably shaking,” he said. “I couldn’t stop thinking, ‘oh my god don’t screw up.’ It ended up that the first shot was an easy one that hit me in the chest and I covered it up. It relaxed me instantly.”

Goalies have to be wired differently in order to succeed, but all that extra pressure can add up — “I think that’s why we all go a little bit crazy,” Munson said. 

There’s a stereotype in hockey that the goalie is the team oddball, the weirdo, the one who is a little off. In this case, that’s not true. They all have their quirks, but as far as goalies go, Tech’s crew is on the normal side — just take that with a grain of salt.

“Every goalie thinks we are one of the normal ones even though we are all goofy,” Munson said laughing.

“I think that is what makes us unique,” Beydoun said. “Who is that crazy to hop in a net every day and get pucks ripped at his head?”

Maybe it’s the crazy side that makes Kero, Beydoun and Munson comfortable in a constant battle for a starting spot. Maybe it’s the fact that they all genuinely like each other. Or maybe it’s the mental toughness that they’ve developed after years of playing goalie. 

Whatever it is, Shawhan has his hands full every Friday when he decides who to start. Because unfortunately for the Huskies, the net isn’t big enough for three. 

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