Wilcox strong in net again as Gophers win

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 29, 2012 - 6:43 AM

The freshman appears to have the upper hand in the Gophers' goalie rotation after his third strong start.

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Don Lucia's goalie rotation experiment was supposed to last three weeks.

Week 3 ended Sunday with freshman Adam Wilcox in net for a 20-save shutout and a 1-0 Gophers victory over scrappy Canisius, as the home team rode Kyle Rau's goal 12 seconds in all the way to the final buzzer at Mariucci Arena.

Wilcox, who played two years of junior hockey after playing three years at South St. Paul High School, is 3-0 with a 1.13 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.

Is that enough to land the 19-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick the Gophers' No. 1 job over Michael Shibrowski and consecutive starts next weekend against Minnesota State Mankato?

Lucia wouldn't exactly say, other than the fact that after two tremendous saves by Wilcox in the last five minutes to preserve Sunday's victory, he offered: "You start to develop confidence in your goalies. That's important. That's three real strong starts for Adam right now."

Lucia said the coaching staff will make a decision by Thursday whether to continue the rotation; maybe change it up to where Wilcox starts Friday and Shibrowski on Saturday; or let one goaltender play both games against the Mavericks.

"They've probably played equally well at home, but Adam obviously outplayed [Shibrowski last weekend] at [Michigan] Tech," Lucia said.

The Gophers (4-1) got off to a super-fast start, scoring on their first shot when Rau -- who missed Friday's exhibition game against the U.S. Under-18 team because of an ankle injury -- deflected Jake Parenteau's blast from atop the left circle.

The goal came after a perfect feed from Nick Bjugstad after he bounced off Ben Danford's check in the corner.

"Too bad for the people that came late," quipped Lucia. "They missed the only goal."

From there, it was all Gophers in the first period. If possession time was kept, the Gophers probably had the puck 90 percent of the time. If offensive-zone time was recorded, it felt like 80 percent was spent in goalie Tony Capobianco's end.

The Gophers, who outshot the Griffins 42-20 and attempted 73 shots, played keepaway with the puck, won every loose-puck race and continually popped the puck to the point for shots. The problem was Canisius repeatedly collapsed low to block shots, the Gophers missed the net or Capobianco turned them away.

That created anxiety on the Gophers bench since Canisius was one bounce from tying it. In six games, Canisius has scored five goals but only given up 12. Capobianco (41 saves) has a 1.78 GAA but is winless because of the lack of goal support.

Rau, Erik Haula and Bjugstad combined for 20 shots. But despite the Gophers' inability to pad their lead, Wilcox denied Kyle Gibbons on a late breakaway, then made an extraordinary stop to rob Tyler Wiseman's point-blank stab with 30 seconds left.

"That was their chance right there," said Wilcox, also an all-state quarterback in high school. "I kind of saw it with the corner of my eye backdoor and I stuck out a leg there and it's good that it hit it."

Lucia loves Wilcox's confidence. For a freshman, he is not afraid to challenge shooters. He is aggressive, athletic and quick and doesn't mind straying from the net. That's how Wilcox said he stayed sharp during the long lulls of not seeing shots Sunday.

Before the season, Gophers goalie coach Justin Johnson described it as a "cockiness, big man on campus type style." Wilcox credits San Jose Sharks/Worcester and former South St. Paul/Minnesota Duluth goalie Alex Stalock, his cousin, for his style.

"That's how I started playing goalie. Blame it all on him," Wilcox joked.

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