If a player struggled to live up to considerable hype, watched as the job he was competing for was claimed by someone else and went through off-ice troubles, you would say he’s had a heck of a rough career, right?
But, if all these things happened in just one season — let alone that player’s freshman season — well, what would you say then?
You might want to ask Jeff Frazee, because he would know what you’re talking about.
All of these things have happened to the freshman goalie on Minnesota’s men’s hockey team this season.
“Yeah, it’s been a wild one,” Frazee — ranked the nation’s top incoming goalie before the season — said of his first season at Minnesota. “You gotta have a little excitement, though. But, obviously, the things that have happened, you don’t really want to see.”
On the ice, Frazee has seen his share of problems after a promising 2-0-1 start.
He’s looked uncomfortable in goal a lot of times and, over the past two and a half months, has seen junior Kellen Briggs all but claim the No. 1 goalie spot with his strong and consistent play.
In fact, Frazee has played just two games over the Gophers’ recent 16-1-1 tear. He earned his first collegiate shutout in Saturday’s 4-0 win at Alaska-Anchorage, but before that hadn’t played since Minnesota’s 4-2 loss to North Dakota on Jan. 14. Lucia said Frazee will play this Saturday against Duluth.
“I’m sure he had very high expectations for himself when he came here to begin the year,” coach Don Lucia said. “But we had a pretty good goaltender here already and the bottom line is based on performance; Kellen outplayed him during the course of this year.”
Being a back-up is something Frazee hasn’t been since his days at Holy Angels (he played mainly for the U.S. National U-17 and U-18 teams before coming to Minnesota), but he said he hasn’t forgotten what to do in the role.
“(I’m) working hard in practice trying to get better,” he said. “So that’s just basically my main focus.”
The fact that he’s kept any focus at all is something considering all the off-ice problems he’s faced.
In November, Frazee watched as KMSP-TV used him as a poster boy of sorts for its series of reports involving underage drinking on the team.
Frazee then was suspended for the Michigan Tech series Feb. 10-11 because of a violation of team rules. Frazee said the suspension wasn’t due to poor grades.
“It was me missing classes,” Frazee said. “You just basically gotta make sure you’re getting up and going to classes and getting all your work in and stuff like that. So, I think it’s helped me look at things differently and probably a lot better.”
These things — the off-ice stuff, especially — have been tough for those on the team who are close to Frazee to watch him deal with.
“It sucks to see him go through that,” said freshman forward Ryan Stoa, a good friend of Frazee’s. “But I think he’s doing good. He’s handled everything good. All that Blarney stuff, I mean, he’s got a good head on his shoulders, so he knows how to carry himself.”
Stoa also said he hasn’t seen any of the things Frazee’s gone through affect his love for the game. Frazee agreed and credited his parents for his ability to get through the tough times.
“They’ve given me some good values that I’ve been able to use through everything,” he said. “And they’ve helped me through these times, so I definitely credit them.”
Frazee’s parents have helped him through the difficult season. And, as tough as the season has been, Lucia thinks it ultimately will pay off for Frazee in the end.
“I think Jeff is a very talented goaltender but I think Jeff has been able to get by a little bit based on sheer ability, and both on the ice and in the classroom,” Lucia said.
“I think he learned some lessons this year that, if you’re going to continue to go up the ladder, whether its academically or athletically or anything that you do, that you gotta work hard.”