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Transition from hockey smooth as ice for Whelan Towson freshman progresses quickly COLLEGE LACROSSE


In Wednesday's editions, the name of Towson State lacrosse goalkeeper Brian Whalen was misspelled.

The Sun regrets the error.

When Towson State defensive coach Jeff Clarke first visited Brian Whelan, he didn't know whether the recruit would be wearing lacrosse cleats or ice skates.

All Clarke knew was that Whelan was a goalie -- of some sort.

Whelan has become what Clarke hoped he would. When Towson State entertains Maryland tonight in a battle of teams struggling to make the NCAA lacrosse tournament, Whelan will be in goal.

A redshirt freshman, Whelan already has turned back shots by some of the nation's best. He has faced Syracuse, Loyola, Navy and Johns Hopkins. But to Clarke, Wheland still smacks of a hockey goalie.

"He still moves like one," Clarke said. "He slides across the goal like he's on skates. He brings his stick down with one hand. He'll make a kick save.

"I'm not sure how much he knows about lacrosse goaltending technique. We're still teaching him."

AWhelan grew up in Levittown, N.Y., but spent his last three years of high school at Canterbury (Conn.) School in part because his father thought he "should step up to the challenge" of becoming a first-rate hockey goalie.

"My goal then was to play better hockey," Whelan said. "Lacrosse was on the back burner."

At Canterbury, he sat on the hockey bench for two years behind Mike Dunham. This past season, Dunham was the goalie on the University of Maine team that won the NCAA championship.

"My senior year, Dunham had gone to Maine and I played all season," Whelan said. "Some colleges looked at me, and an NHL scout, over breakfast one morning, tried to persuade me to go to college for hockey. But after sitting behind Dunham and playing a lot of lacrosse, my focus had shifted to lacrosse."

Whelan needed little persuasion to attend Towson State, since few lacrosse schools sought him. The Tigers hope that he will provide continuity. Richard Betcher started in 1991, followed by Syracuse transfer Jerry DeLorenzo last year, each in his final season of eligibility.

"I decided to redshirt when I came here because I heard DeLorenzo wascoming," Whelan said. "I figured he'd get the playing time."

Junior Tim Colt earned the No. 1 job this season, but was hammered in the third game by Syracuse. The Orange had 10 first-half goals when Whelan came in. He made 18 saves in the 15-8 loss and has started since.

Whelan had 14 saves in Saturday's 11-9 loss to Hopkins. After seeing the game film, Clarke didn't find a shot that "Whelan should have had," noting that the Blue Jays were always at close range.

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