Jan. 9th, 2022: Gophers Goaltender Jack LaFontaine leaves the team after signing a one-year ELC with the Carolina Hurricanes.
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The Carolina Hurricanes have announced that the team has signed goaltender Jack LaFontaine to a one-year, entry-level contract. The current deal will pay LaFontaine $750,000 at the NHL level and $70,000 at the AHL level through the end of the 2021-2022 season.
Jack LaFontaine has signed an entry-level contract with the Carolina Hurricanes, foregoing the remainder of his college eligibility. https://t.co/KTfWPcgXCU
— Minnesota Men’s Hockey (@GopherHockey) January 9, 2022
LaFontaine at the age of 24, carries a 12-8-0 record, 2.69 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage in 20 games for the Gophers this season. In the 2020-2021 season, LaFontaine was 22-7-0 with a 1.79 goals-against average, a .934 save percentage, and five shutouts in 29 games played.
The Mississauga, Ont., native won the Mike Richter Award as the top goaltender in Division One hockey and was also named a First-Team All-American, Big Ten Goaltender of the year, and Big Ten Tournament Most Outstanding Player. LaFontaine was also a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, an award given annually to the top player in college hockey.
The Hurricanes have found themselves in a rough situation, facing goaltender injuries throughout the system. With Antti Raanta a late scratch Saturday with an upper-body injury and AHL goalies Eetu Makeniemi and Beck Warm both injured, the Canes have been scrambling for goaltender help. They have also reached out to free-agent goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who is on an AHL deal in Charlotte.
What this means for the Gophers
First of all, it is a tough loss for the Gophers to lose their number one goaltender. LaFontaine has provided the Gophers with steady netminding since the day he has shown up. Throughout his time with the Gophers, Jack has been given the narrative from players and coaches, “the best goaltender in the country.”
LaFontaine has always been a hard worker, and his work will certainly be missed. On November 20, 2021, Lafontaine recorded 35 saves in the Gophers 4-2 win over Penn State. After the game, Jack was riding the team bike in the hallway at 10:40 pm on a Saturday night. Well over half the team already left to go home or hang out with their buddies, but not Jack.
Whenever you hear his name you think of “a man of hard work” and Jack certainly resembles that. Whether it be getting a workout in late on a Saturday night, watching hours of film of the next opponent’s power-play, or throwing tennis balls off the basement walls of Mariucci arena, Jack will always be known as a hard worker and will be missed by the Gophers for the remainder of the year.
Posting a 2-0-0 record with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage, LaFontaine and the Gophers swept Michigan State University over the previous weekend.
Following the statement released by the Hurricanes, Matthew Knies said, “There’s nobody more deserving than Jack! I couldn’t be more proud of my roommate and I’m so appreciative of everything he’s done for Gopher hockey. He’s truly made me into a better person and player. Thank you to Jack for your contributions to Gopher hockey, I love you with all my heart.”
Gophers Head coach Bob Motzko added, “We would like to thank Jack for his contributions to the Gophers program, and we wish him well as he begins his professional career.”
It is likely the Gophers will go with Justen Close as their starter going forward. Over the week, Close played in two exhibition games going 2-0-0 with a 2.50 goals-against average and a .883 save percentage against the St. Thomas Tommies and the US National Under-18 Team.