101st Season: Gopher Men’s Hockey Preview


Will Sherry, Contributor

As fans finally return to stadiums and Gopher sports come spring back to life, the team that brings the most excitement to campus is the Minnesota Golden Gopher Men’s Ice Hockey team. With a disappointing finish in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Men’s Division I Hockey Tournament after a 4-0 loss to Minnesota State-Mankato, the Gopher’s hockey team is coming into the 2021-22 season with a positive mindset and a lot of hope. In a recent interview with Mike Grimm of Gopher Talk, Gopher Hockey Head Coach Bob Motzko states, “you can feel the hockey juices starting to come now, we’ve rounded third base in our summer and we’re excited to get going here soon.”

With excitement growing as we approach the upcoming college hockey season, more builds as new talent joins the 2021-22 squad. Among the freshman talent are names such as Tristan Broz and Chaz Lucius. With Broz from Bloomington, Minnesota putting up 112 points in 53 games with Blake School and 101 points in 119 games with the Fargo Force in the USHL as well as Lucius from Grant, Minnesota playing most of his high school career for the U.S National Team Development Program, Motzko will be looking for these two to jump right in and play an important role in this quickly growing hockey team. Both Broz and Lucius coming in as true in-state freshmen, the Minnesota hockey world is excited to see what youth and skill these two can bring to both the team and program. In addition to Broz and Lucius are incoming freshman Brennan Boynton, a 6 foot goalie from Champlin Park High School, Rhett Pitlick, a 5 foot 10 inch forward from Chaska High School, Matthew Knies, a 6 foot 3 inch forward from Phoenix, Arizona, and Aaron Huglen, a 6 foot forward from Roseau, Minnesota. Coach Motzko hopes these newly and heavily in-state recruited talents can help the Golden Gophers make a push into the playoffs, and maybe even make a national championship run.

In addition to this new talent, the Gophers are also bringing back lots of leadership and skill. Leading the charge is veteran goaltender Jack LaFontaine. With an incredible performance in the 2020-21 season, LaFontaine was awarded the Mike Richter award, given to the top goaltender in college hockey. Along with the Mike Richter award, Jack was also a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award which is given to the top player in all of men’s college hockey, a First Team All-American, the 2021 Big Ten Goaltender of the Year and a First Team All-Big Ten Selection, as well as being only one of three Division I Men’s Hockey players to earn Academic All-America. LaFontaine looks to build upon this in the coming season, hoping to add a national championship to his resume. As well as star goalie LaFontaine, seniors Ben Brinkman, Matt Denman, Sammy Walker, Grant Cruikshank and Blake McLaughlin look to lead this team to a national title. Walker, coming off a 29 point 2020-21 season as team captain, looks to keep racking up points while using his high speed skill to beat defenders and goalies as he continues to excel. His line mate, McLaughlin, coming off a 28 point season, looks to do just the same. 

The Golden Gophers start their 101st season taking on Alaska at home Saturday, October 2nd with game time still yet to be determined. The next game of their series is  quickly after the following night Sunday, October 3rd. The Gophers highlight games are typically against Minnesota – Duluth, St. Cloud State, and North Dakota in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, as well as the border battle against Wisconsin, and intense hockey games against the rest of the Big Ten Conference. On Monday, January 3rd, the Gophers will play a one game series at The University of Minnesota against the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-18 team, where freshman Chaz Lucius spent his prior two years playing.

Coming in with the Golden Gophers young talent and veteran leadership and head coach Bob Motzko beginning his fourth year as the Gophers head coach, the team looks to make a push past the quarterfinals, and hopefully bring home their first national title since 2003.