Puck stops with U's Wilcox

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 8, 2013 - 9:37 AM

With a big series at St. Cloud State ahead, the Gophers again will rely on Adam Wilcox, who has thrived as an every-game goalie.

hide

Minnesota freshman goaltender Adam Wilcox.

Photo: Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Nate Schmidt admits he didn't see it coming. The Gophers defenseman knew that goaltender Kent Patterson left a gaping void in the net when he completed his eligibility last season, and he certainly didn't anticipate that freshman Adam Wilcox would fill it all by himself.

Despite Wilcox's impressive body of work at South St. Paul High School and in the U.S. Hockey League, Schmidt remained doubtful -- until Wilcox shattered his expectations.

"You see an All-American goalie leave last year and you say, 'How is a freshman going to handle this?' " Schmidt said. "He's handled it extremely well. He's really playing beyond his years."

Heading into this weekend's series at first-place St. Cloud State, Wilcox leads the WCHA with a 1.70 goals-against average and 17 victories. He is ranked among the top 10 nationally in victories (second), goals-against average (sixth), shutouts (tied for fifth) and minutes played (10th). Since his second start of the season on Oct. 20, Wilcox has been in net for nearly every minute of a 16-3-4 run that includes three shutouts.

While that has surprised some, everything has played out just as Wilcox envisioned. After sharing time with junior Michael Shibrowski to start the season, he thrived when Shibrowski was sidelined by an injury and firmly established himself as the go-to netminder for the nation's No. 1 team.

Despite the heavy workload, coach Don Lucia said he expects Wilcox to play every game the rest of the season. The goalie said he feels no fatigue, particularly given the way things have gone.

"I definitely had confidence," said Wilcox, who has played 1,480 minutes. "If you want to do something, you have to know you can. I had a good junior career, and I felt ready to come into college and have success right from the start."

Goaltending coach Justin Johnson came to understand the rigors of the WCHA during his days as a Gophers goalie from 2001 to '05. He thought it would take time for Wilcox to grow into the position, and he said it is unusual for a freshman to excel so quickly in the league. This season, however, four of the top 10 goalies in the conference are freshmen, including Stephon Williams of Minnesota State Mankato, who is second behind Wilcox in goals-against average.

Wilcox came to the Gophers with a desire to improve his technique and a strong belief in himself, which has allowed him to flourish.

"He's approached things in a workmanlike way, trying to learn each day," Johnson said. "And that is the secret to establishing your game at the WCHA level. In his mind, this is what was going to happen. He just worked hard and expected things to go like this."

Good act to follow

Wilcox's cousin Alex Stalock, a former goaltender at Minnesota Duluth now playing for San Jose's minor league affiliate in Worcester, Mass., introduced Wilcox to the blocker and pads. Wilcox's family had a mini-rink in its basement, where the cousins often played. One day when Stalock wanted to try shooting, he put 5-year-old Adam in the net.

After a couple of weekends of stopping pucks in the basement, Wilcox asked his dad, John, if he could try playing goalie in a game. At South St. Paul -- where he also was a quarterback on the football team -- he didn't have a goalie coach and relied upon his athletic ability rather than technique. Wilcox refined his game during two USHL seasons and was Tri-City's MVP last season.

Johnson liked the way Wilcox could quickly read where a shot was going, and he could see him rapidly integrating new skills as he learned more about the position. Lucia liked the durability he showed in the USHL, which made him think Wilcox could make an impact as a rookie.

"It was a big question mark when we lost Kent," Lucia said. "We weren't going to have a goaltender with really any collegiate experience. But we felt confident when we recruited Adam that he was the type of guy who would be a No. 1 goaltender, that could play almost every game."

Wilcox said that working with Johnson has helped him improve substantially since the beginning of the season. Johnson noted that the goalie now uses sound technique to stop many pucks, but his athletic ability allows him to make saves in a variety of ways, keeping him unpredictable.

Schmidt said that as a defenseman, Wilcox's consistent performance gives him peace of mind. "Knowing he's backstopping you, you can go out and make plays and not worry," he said. "He's a real mature kid, and he knows how to handle pressure. That's a big thing for a freshman."

Mindful of the grind of a long season, Lucia is giving Wilcox some lighter practices and extra days off to keep him fresh for the critical games to come. Wilcox's expectations of himself have only gotten higher, a good sign for the Gophers.

"I feel great," he said. "This is the part of the season I love, and this is why we worked out all summer, to be ready for this. I'm amped."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cincinnati - M. Leake 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Minnesota - T. May 6:05 PM
Baltimore - M. Gonzalez
NY Yankees - C. Capuano 6:07 PM
Toronto - M. Buehrle
Philadelphia - D. Buchanan 6:10 PM
NY Mets - J. deGrom
Boston - A. Ranaudo 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - C. Archer
Miami - T. Koehler 6:35 PM
Atlanta - E. Santana
Cleveland - D. Salazar 7:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Vargas
Detroit - J. Verlander 7:10 PM
Chicago WSox - S. Carroll
Texas - S. Baker 7:10 PM
Houston - B. Oberholtzer
Chicago Cubs - K. Hendricks 7:15 PM
St. Louis - S. Miller
Colorado - C. Bergman 8:40 PM
Arizona - J. Collmenter
Oakland - J. Lester 9:05 PM
LA Angels - J. Weaver
Los Angeles - D. Haren 9:10 PM
San Diego - A. Cashner
Washington - J. Zimmermann 9:10 PM
Seattle - F. Hernandez
Milwaukee - W. Peralta 9:15 PM
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong
Atlanta 24 FINAL
Jacksonville 14
Detroit 23 FINAL
Buffalo 0
Indianapolis 7 FINAL
Cincinnati 35
Kansas City 14 FINAL
Green Bay 34
NY Jets 7 FINAL
Philadelphia 37
St. Louis 13 FINAL
Miami 14
Carolina 10 FINAL
Pittsburgh 0
New England 13 FINAL
NY Giants 16
Washington 24 FINAL
Tampa Bay 10
Baltimore 22 FINAL
New Orleans 13
Chicago 13 FINAL
Cleveland 33
Denver 27 FINAL
Dallas 3
Minnesota 19 FINAL
Tennessee 3
San Francisco 40 FINAL
Houston 13
Arizona 9 FINAL
San Diego 12
Seattle 31 FINAL
Oakland 41
(21) Texas A&M 52 FINAL
(9) So Carolina 28
Wake Forest 10 FINAL
ULM 17
Boise State 13 FINAL
(18) Ole Miss 35
Tulane 31 FINAL
Tulsa 38
Rutgers 41 FINAL
Washington St 38
Weber State 14 FINAL
(19) Arizona State 45
Temple 37 FINAL
Vanderbilt 7
BYU 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 9:30 PM
Arizona
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Houston 7:00 PM
Sporting Kansas City
Ottawa 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Minnesota 9:00 PM
Phoenix
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pm
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pm
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. TBA
Sep 27 - at Michigan TBA
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Gophers in their season opener

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close