The holiday known as Good Friday became something more like Big Friday for some hockey fans. University of Minnesota goalkeeper Jack LaFontaine, last season’s best goalkeeper in the Big Ten and one of three finalists for National Goalkeeper of the Year, announced that he will be back for a fifth season of college hockey, and his third with the Gophers.
I love it here at the University of Minnesota, I love my teammates, and I love the culture we are building, LaFontaine said in a statement from the school. I have some unfinished business and this team has unfinished business so we look forward to getting back to work and seeing this journey.
The news comes after LaFontaine, 23, completed one of the best seasons for a goalkeeper in Gophers’ 100-year history of hockey. He was 22-7-0 as a starter, posted five shutouts and two Gophers single season records: 1.79 goals – against average and a .934 save percentage. The work did not go unnoticed nationwide, as LaFontaine was named a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and a top three finalist for the Mike Richter Award, presented annually to top hockey goalkeepers to be announced at the NCAA Frozen Four. .
Jack has been a No. 1 goalkeeper for a year and a half and his growth has been excellent, Gophers coach Bob Motzko said in a statement. A next year of strength, maturity and playtime will be an incredible advantage in his career. He’s an excellent teammate and leader for this program, and we’re lucky to be a Gopher.
Under NCAA rules put in place to make up for lost time due to the pandemic, all players have an optional extra year to qualify.
Originally from a suburb of Toronto, LaFontaine started his college career in Michigan, but left after two years. He played junior hockey in British Columbia and was honored as the best goalkeeper in that league in 2018/19, after which he signed up with Minnesota. He shared Gophers’ netminding duties with Jared Moe for the first part of the 2019-2020 season, then took over the position and has been the team starter since January 2020. Moe, who started two games last season, recently announced that he will moving to another place. looking for more playtime.
Perhaps most importantly, LaFontaines’ efforts in the net helped the Gophers win the 2021 Big Ten Tournament, where he was named MVP, and earned them a record 38th invite to the NCAA tournament, the programs first under Motzko, where they defeated Neb.-Omaha before falling to Minnesota State Mankato in the regional final.
With Moes leaving and LaFontaine returning, the Gophers are expected to have a new depth chart for three goalkeepers next season. Justen Close is expected back for a junior season as the team’s third-stringer, while Fargo Force goalkeeper Brennan Boynton announced his commitment to the Gophers program this week and is expected on campus in the fall.
LaFontaine, who is an English major and has been honored twice by the Big Ten for his academics, is a 2016 concept pick from the Carolina Hurricanes, who are expected to keep his rights until he finishes college.
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