Hey you, Justen Close says hello!
The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers have been a prominent feature in our sportscast thanks to their third string goalie Justen Close's roots, and the following has stuck around thanks to the stellar season they are experiencing.
The latest poll saw the Golden Gophers receive 11 votes for the #1 spot in the country, a title they held for a good portion of the early season. An undefeated first-half was quickly spoiled by a wake-up loss to Wisconsin, where they rebounded nicely the next night, but were swept by the un-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish the next weekend out.
The Gophers have since won 4 straight, putting up a +25 goal differential in the process. They are only allowing an average of 1.61 goals per game.
Goaltender Jack Lafontaine has been a key piece of the puzzle and a great mentor for Close, and was recently recognized for his play by being nominated for the Hobey Baker Award. The award for the best college player, has not been won by a goalie since Ryan Miller won the award in 2001 while attending Michigan State.
Five more series remain for the Gophers, and this weekend will be a major test for the team as Wisconsin comes to town trying to cut down the Gophers lead in the division even more.
Wisconsin features 2 NHL first round picks in Edmonton's Dylan Holloway and Montreal's Cole Caufield, so Lafontaine will certainly be tested by the Badger's best. The match-up for this weekend's TSN NCAA hockey broadcast is still TBD, though this important match-up between Minnesota and Wisconsin would be a likely choice.
Expect WestCentralOnline to speak with Close soon.