Men's hockey team faces one big unknown

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 12, 2012 - 5:04 PM

With opening night here, Don Lucia expects to begin the season with rotating goalies.


Michael Shibrowski.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The Gophers men's hockey team is stacked, which is why WCHA coaches have picked it to defend its league title. The Gophers return six of their top seven scorers. And all six starting defensemen from a Frozen Four team are back to be challenged for playing time by two freshman standouts.

But the big question heading into this highly anticipated season is which inexperienced goaltender -- junior Michael Shibrowski or freshman Adam Wilcox -- replaces, Kent Patterson who played all but 20 minutes last season.

An enormous unknown surrounds the game's most important position.

And unlike last year when the Gophers were able to dive into their schedule by pummeling Sacred Heart in consecutive wins by a combined 15-0, Shibrowski and Wilcox will be tested right away this weekend against Michigan State, a future Big Ten rival coming off an NCAA tournament bid.

"The expectation is one of those guys will get to play on a nightly basis," Gophers coach Don Lucia said. "They were recruited here for a reason -- to be able to go in there and not allow us to have to change the way we want to play. We want to play an up-tempo, puck-possession, puck-movement-type of game. At times they're going to have to make a save."

Lucia anticipates rotating Shibrowski, Patterson's backup last season, and Wilcox the first three weekends. Then the Gophers will "head into November and see where we're at," Lucia said.

Patterson, a Colorado Avalanche prospect, won 28 games to snag All-WCHA first-team honors last season. He finished his career with Gophers records for save percentage (.913) and goals-against average (tied at 2.45).

"Losing Kent is a pretty big loss," said captain Zach Budish.

"But we're confident with the goalies we have. It'll be nice to have some competition between them every day in practice not really knowing who's going to play on Friday and Saturday nights."

Shibrowski played briefly at Colorado College, winning his lone collegiate start over Mercyhurst on Feb. 6, 2010. The former Benilde-St. Margaret's goalie returned to junior hockey the following season before joining the Gophers in 2011. He prides himself on positioning and tries to simplify the game by keeping things clean. He would love to follow in Patterson's footsteps.

"There were times last year when things got out of hand and felt chaotic, and Kent was always back there calming things down and keeping control of the game," Shibrowski said.

Wilcox, from South St. Paul, is aggressive playing the puck. Goalie coach Justin Johnson likens him to Tim Thomas, who won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins.

Budish jokes that Wilcox is "goofy" and hilarious, while Shibrowski is more serious and "worked his tail off last year in practice and the guys respect that. He's hungry to play."

Johnson agrees, saying: "Their on-ice styles reflect their personalities. Wilcox has more of a cockiness, big-man-on-campus-type style, and Michael is very workmanlike and leaves no stone unturned, whether it's vision training or mental training or physical on-ice, off-ice training."

Last year, Patterson's play early allowed the Gophers to settle into their game. This year, the onus could fall on the skaters to take pressure off the goalies.

"Every once in a while if they steal one, great, but if they've got to steal time after time, then as a fivesome in front of them, we're not doing a good job," associate coach Mike Guentzel said. "We're not worried about the goalies, though. In 2002 when we won [a national] championship, [Adam] Hauser had a ton of experience. In 2003 when we won, [Travis] Weber had no experience. So it can be done either way."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


NY Mets 12:05 PM
St. Louis
Pittsburgh 12:05 PM
Miami 12:05 PM
Detroit 12:05 PM
Minnesota 12:05 PM
NY Yankees 12:05 PM
Tampa Bay 12:05 PM
Baltimore 12:07 PM
Cincinnati 2:10 PM
LA Angels
Chicago Cubs 3:05 PM
Kansas City
Los Angeles 3:05 PM
San Francisco
Chicago WSox 3:05 PM
Milwaukee 3:05 PM
Seattle 3:05 PM
San Diego
Texas 3:05 PM
Los Angeles
Colorado 3:10 PM
Arizona 3:10 PM
Houston 11:30 AM
LA Lakers 2:30 PM
Minnesota 3:00 PM
New Orleans
Philadelphia 3:30 PM
Detroit 5:00 PM
LA Clippers 5:00 PM
Dallas 6:00 PM
Memphis 6:00 PM
San Antonio
Oklahoma City 8:00 PM
Washington 2:00 PM
NY Rangers
Calgary 4:00 PM
Boston 4:00 PM
Detroit 4:00 PM
NY Islanders
Florida 4:00 PM
Anaheim 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Chicago 6:30 PM
San Jose 6:30 PM
Michigan State 1:20 PM
Gonzaga 4:05 PM
Philadelphia 4:00 PM
Toronto FC 6:00 PM
Real Salt Lake
(7) Florida State 11:00 AM
(3) South Carolina
Villanova 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Michigan 2:00 PM
Southern Miss
Temple 4:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Siena 4:00 PM
St Marys-CA 4:00 PM
(5) Baylor 7:30 PM
(2) Notre Dame
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite team in the NCAA men's hockey tournament?

Weekly Question