Five, maybe 10 minutes after his college season ended — in controversial fashion, no less — goalie Mat Robson realized he’d have to figure out his future.
Throughout his junior campaign with the Gophers, the Canadian free agent had fielded interest from NHL teams during a process that felt overwhelming at times. He tried to block out the possibilities, focusing instead on the games he kept playing.
But once the Gophers season ended Saturday after a controversial hooking call in overtime gave Notre Dame a power play it capitalized on to seal a 2-1 win in the Big Ten semifinals, he had no choice but to mull his options.
And when he did, he decided to stick with the organization he was already familiar with and that had expressed its interest repeatedly — signing a two-year, entry-level contract with the Wild on Monday to remain in the Twin Cities.
“It’s become my home over the last two years, playing at the university,” Robson said. “To kind of take another step in the right direction here with the Wild is a dream come true, and I’m just very excited.”
Robson was at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday, taking in the Wild’s game against the Avalanche. He didn’t participate in the team’s morning skate but is expected at some point to get on the ice with the players.
While Robson can appear in the regular season, he’s ineligible for the playoffs since he wasn’t on the Wild’s reserve list at the trade deadline. He also can’t report to the American Hockey League until next season because he wasn’t loaned to Iowa on deadline day.
But he can still get acclimated to the pro game by hanging around the Wild.
“He’ll practice with us and see what the NHL life is all about,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Aside from studying how the Wild players handle the day-to-day grind and train, Robson is interested to adjust to taking shots from NHL forwards. After appearing at the team’s development camp last summer, the 22-year-old went 14-12-4 with a .921 save percentage and 2.78 goals-against average in 31 games with the Gophers.
The 6-3, 190-pound Robson is a finalist for Big Ten Goaltender of the Year.
“It was time to move on and take another step and challenge myself,” Robson said, “and I couldn’t be more excited. This is every kid’s dream. I’m just lucky to realize it.”
The Wild signed forward Alexander Khovanov to a three-year, entry-level contract that begins next season.
Khovanov recorded 25 goals, 49 assists and 74 points in 64 regular-season games with the Moncton Wildcats in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season. He led the team in power play assists (26) and ranked second in game-winning goals (seven). The 18-year-old also finished third in scoring, assists and shots (175) and fourth in goals.
A native of Russia, the 5-11, 197-pound Khovanov was drafted in the third round, 86th overall, last year.
Moncton begins its first-round playoff series against Baie-Comeau Friday.
One of the most glaring takeaways from a 1-0-1 showing by the Wild last weekend was a jump in its shot attempts.
The team posted 75 Saturday in the 5-2 win over the Rangers and 69 on Sunday when it fell to the Islanders 3-2 in overtime. Its season average, through 73 games, at 5-on-5 is 46.
“Our defense has been more aggressive,” winger Zach Parise said. “Our forwards have been more aggressive. We’ve been keeping the puck in more. We’re not giving up territory as easy.”