The paint on a goalie’s mask doesn’t end up there by accident. Designs range from a personal message for the man behind the mask to wild art showing school spirit. Simple or crazy, that mask is one of the few things attackers look at as they crash the net.
We scoured the league and pulled our favorite picks for the coolest college hockey goalie masks. Here, in no particular order, are the winners.
Evan Plotnik, American International
This mask has a lot going on, and every piece of it is awesome. Plotnik wanted the AIC tradition to stand out on his mask, so he made sure to include two big Yellow Jackets and the AIC logo on the front. Plotnik and his painter, Allen Schneider at Vice Design, made sure the details were top notch as well, including a honeycomb design throughout the mask and small AIC logos throughout. The back of the helmet features a trio of "minions," a throwback to Plotnik's helmets in junior hockey and a reference to a line on his team that was dubbed the "minion line" because of their height.
Also included in the design is a tribute that many NCAA netminders replicated — a remembrance of members of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team. Plotnik included his friend Jaxon Joseph's number 13 on the chin of his helmet to honor him.
"I always wanted to remind myself who I am playing for when I hit the ice," Plotnik said, "and a reminder to always work hard because they don’t have the same opportunities as me."
Matt Murray, UMass
The junior goalie's mask has a few meaningful designs added to it this season, all helping him stay grounded during the Minutemen's unprecedented success. Murray relinquished a lot of control on the overall design of the mask — he requested certain images be included, but otherwise let the artist run with it.
On the back of Murray's mask is "Family First," a slogan that's been painted there ever since he began getting designed helmets. Murray says it's a simple phrase that holds a lot of meaning — whether it's his immediate family or team members, family is the number one priority.
"My immediate family...And then it’s carrying that over to a team aspect. Whoever’s on my team, next to me...they’re a brother, they’re a family."
There's an "Ace" symbol on the back left-hand side, which Murray described as a new "right of passage" through the program, although the actual meaning remains a team secret.
Also added to Murray's mask this season are the names of each victim of the Humboldt Broncos' bus accident. The names on the front are designed with a special paint that only appears when the light hits a certain way. On the back of his mask are the names of five Broncos that were close friends of Murray, who passed away in the accident. The mask reminds Murray of his friends each time he puts it on.
"It’s still a very humbling experience. Knowing every time I put it on I’m going to play the game I love, and the game all these guys loved."
Peyton Jones, Penn State
Peyton Jones' mask is a great mix of representation from his hometown, Philadelphia, and community at Penn State. One side features the Ben Franklin Bridge and Liberty Bell with the Philadelphia skyline in the background. The right side shows off pieces of Penn State's campus — the Old Main building and Nittany Lion shrine.
As the netminder at a burgeoning hockey school with a devoted fanbase, Jones made sure to thank the Penn State student section.
"On the back of my helmet I have a picture of the Roar Zone sign thanking them because they have been a huge part of my experience playing college hockey at Pegula and make it the best place to play in college hockey."
The chin features a laces design like the Penn State jerseys, which also acts as an homage to Jones' favorite goalie, Carey Price, who gets the same design on his masks. The back of his mask also has a heart with the numbers 20 and 24 near the bottom, the jersey numbers of two teammates that Jones played with when he was younger who passed away.
Niko DellaMaggiore, Alaska-Fairbanks
Parts of Niko DellaMaggiore's mask design are so intense and realistic, there's a pretty serious chance that a faint-hearted net-crasher might turn and skate away. Seriously, look at that teeth on that polar bear.
Despite the realism, DellaMaggiore had a simple scheme in mind. The California native had a black and white helmet last season and wanted to keep that same idea, but with a little kick. He added the blue stripe to change it up a bit and added the Hulk hands opening up the chin in a reference to his nickname.
Also featured on the back plate are the first initials of DellaMaggiore's family and the Holy Trinity.
Cale Morris, Notre Dame
Cale Morris's mask might not have the intricate designs of a lot of other masks around the league, but it's hard to deny the coolness factor associated with the classic Notre Dame gold helmet.
"With Notre Dame, their reputation of the standard gold helmet goes way back. We definitely have to keep it a little more basic than all the other crazy designs you see," Morris said.
The junior Colorado native likes the clean look of his helmet, but he found space to add some personal touches. There's the clover and Notre Dame emblem on each side, and on the back plate is another clover with the initials "E.T." inside of it, a remembrance of a close family friend that's passed away.
Tyler Wall, UMass Lowell
Tyler Wall gets major points in the mask game, because not only is his design unique and cool, he actually drew the sketches himself. Tip your hat to a talented goalie and artist.
The face of the mask shows off a brick wall design and words "The Wall," showcasing Wall's name, of course, but moreover a reference to the Pink Floyd album cover (one of Wall's goalie coaches used to call him 'Pink Floyd' — Tyler had to ask his dad to get the reference).
Wall designed the UMass-Lowell Hawk mascot on the top of the helmet, fading it around the rest of the mask and adding in red eyes for the intimidation factor. The wings on each side are a feature that Wall noticed on a few football helmets and wanted to emulate. The back of the helmet ties in a few aspects of Wall's background. Encapsulated in the maple leaf to represent Wall's Canadian heritage, the top half of the image features the Lowell skyline. The bottom half depicts a tomato field, which was Wall's way of representing his hometown of Leamington, Ontario — the Tomato Capital of Canada.
Tommy Nixon, Holy Cross
Tommy Nixon pulled in a few outside influences to nail down his helmet design. He said it's inspired by a combination of the old Crusader logo and former Ottawa goalie Patrick Lalime's helmet from his time with the Senators. Marvin the Martian adorns the top of Nixon's helmet, as it did Lalime's. The senior netminder asked his painter to dress Marvin in a full suit of armor, wearing goalie pads, blocker, glove and a sword in place of his stick.
Gustavs Davis Grigals, Alaska-Fairbanks
Take note: Alaska-Fairbanks' mask game is strong. Freshman goaltender Gustavs Grigals keeps the trend rolling with his mask design.
"When I got the opportunity to design my helmet, I was really excited and, not going to lie, already had some drawings in my notebook," Grigals said.
The Latvia native wanted to include three main aspects: a tribute to his home country, something showing the beauty of Alaska and a tie-in the university. On the right side is a large "Nanook" and the polar bear mascot. Below that is the art with the Alaskan mountains and rivers.
The left side shows off the UAF logo with a moose. On the back plate, it was very important for Grigals to have his country's flag. The symbol of his home land reminds him to keep working hard.
Sean Romeo, Ohio State
Redshirt senior Sean Romeo has some unique designs as part of his mask, neither of which have much to do with hockey.
On the front chin of Romeo's mask is the player's last name with a red "X" through the "M," a nod to a football tradition at Ohio State.
"During Michigan week people put red tape on all the 'M's' on campus — literally every 'M.' So I thought it would be cool to have that red 'X' since there’s an 'M' in the middle of my name," Romeo said.
The back of the helmet features the Columbus skyline in the background (the location of Ohio State) and crossing street signs. "Buckeye Nation" is of course for the Ohio State Buckeyes mascot. "Queens Blvd" is a reference to one of Romeo's favorite TV shows (and the one he watches on game days), Entourage. Doug Ellin, the producer of the show, liked the graphic tribute so much that he shared it on his own Instagram.
Ian Milosz, Boston College
Ian Milosz' mask has some creativity that you definitely won't see anywhere else in the league. The chin features Milosz' jersey number 29, which doubles as a tribute to his dad's badge number from when he worked for the Shrewsbury Fire Department. Each side features a Boston College logo, one a cartoonish Eagle and the other the traditional college logo. The Boston skyline graces the left side of his helmet and the right side features a pond hockey scene in the background — a childhood activity that inspired Milosz to get into hockey.
As is so often the case, the real party is on the back of his helmet. Here, we find a peanut M&M decked out in goalie gear. The M&M is an inside joke between Milosz and a friend from home. Originally, it was wearing firefighter equipment, again for his dad, but for his junior year Milosz switched it up to old- time goalie gear like his dad would have used growing up. The "JJJJ" in the top left corner are the initials of all four of Milosz' grandparents (Jack, Jackie, Jane and Joe) who have passed away. Finally, in the top right corner sits a shamrock to show respect to Milosz' mother's family, who is 100 percent Irish.
"Since I showed so much love to my dad on my helmet already, have to keep mom happy too," Milosz said.
Beau Collins, Holy Cross
Beau Collins took advantage of his helmet's back plate to design a personal tribute to his best friend Mike, a defenseman teammate in prep school and junior hockey that has passed away. Mike wore the number 3 and prayed to Saint Sebastien, the patron saint of athletes, before every time on the ice.
"I wanted to honor him and his love for the game by having his favorite prayer and number on my backplate," Collins said.
He painted Mike's initials on the back, as well as the initials of people that have had a strong influence in Collins' life and have helped him get to the DI level of hockey.
Did we miss any crazy masks out there? Let us know!