Gophers goalie Jack LaFontaine wins Mike Richter Award
Jack LaFontaine closed out one of the best statistical seasons in Gopher Hockey’s 100-year history on Friday night by earning the Mike Richter Award as the top goaltender in Division I men’s hockey.
Additionally, a trio of ‘U’ players earned CCM/AHCA Hockey All-America honors with LaFontaine and Sampo Ranta selected as First Team honorees and Jackson LaCombe picking up Second Team merits.
The trio helped the Gophers to the 2021 Big Ten Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament title and a No. 1 seed in the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament –earning Minnesota its 38th NCAA tournament berth (tied with Michigan for most in college hockey), its first appearance in the national tournament since 2017 and its first NCAA tournament win since 2014. The ‘U’ finished out the season as the NCAA leader in wins (24-7-0) while ranking in the top-10 nationally in scoring offense (fourth), scoring defense (sixth) and penalty kill (ninth).
LaFontaine’s Mike Richter Award and First Team All-America accolade add to an already impressive list of honors for the senior alternate captain. The goaltender was named the Big Ten Goaltender of the Year, a First Team All-Big Ten selection and the Most Outstanding Player of the Big Ten tournament in 2020-21 while also earning recognition as a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. A two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection majoring in English, LaFontaine was also a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award.
A native of Mississauga, Ontario, LaFontaine (22-7-0) set new school single-season records for save percentage (.934) and goals against average (1.79) while his five shutouts this year rank tied for the third most in a season by a Gopher. Among regular NCAA goaltenders this year, the Carolina Hurricanes prospect ranked first in wins, tied for first in save percentage, tied for second in shutouts, third in saves (717) and third in goals against average. In 16 games against nationally ranked opponents, he boasted an 11-5-0 record.
Already a First Team All-Big Ten and Big Ten all-tournament team selection, Ranta led the Gophers with career highs in both goals (19) and points (31) in his final season with the program while also notching a new career high for assists (12). Skating in all 31 games this season, the junior forward’s 19 goals rank second in the nation while Minnesota was 20-3-0 this year when he tallied a point. A native of Naantali, Finland, Ranta signed an entry-level contract with the Colorado Avalanche after the season. He was recognized as an Academic All-Big Ten selection twice, earning the honor every year he was eligible.
Also a First Team All-Big Ten pick, LaCombe led Minnesota’s defensive corps with career highs for points (21), assists (17) and goals (four) in 27 games while leading all Gophers in shorthanded goals (two) and power-play assists (six). A native of Eden Prairie, Minn., LaCombe ranks eighth among NCAA defensemen in points and fifth in assists. Minnesota was 12-1-0 this year when he tallied a point while the Anaheim Ducks prospect notched assists on the game-winning goal in seven of the team’s 24 wins. LaCombe was one of three ‘U’ defensemen to help the U.S. National Junior Team earn a gold medal this year at the IIHF World Junior Championship.