Citing ‘unfinished business,’ LaFontaine returning to Minnesota for fifth college hockey season in 2021-22

Minnesota goalie Jack LaFontaine helped the Gophers win the Big Ten tournament title this season (photo: Jim Rosvold).

Minnesota goalie Jack LaFontaine has informed the Gophers that he will return for a third year with the program and fifth overall collegiate campaign in 2021-22.

“I love it here at the University of Minnesota, I love my teammates and I love the culture we are building,” LaFontaine said in a news release. “I have some unfinished business, and this team has unfinished business, so we are excited to get back to work and see this journey through.”

LaFontaine emerged as one of the top college players in the nation this season – currently standing as one of three remaining finalists for the Mike Richter Award, a candidate for All-America honors and one of three Gophers in the running for the Senior CLASS Award. The alternate captain was also the 16th Gopher and third Minnesota goaltender to be named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award this season while also being named the Big Ten goaltender of the year, a first team All-Big Ten selection and most outstanding player of the Big Ten tournament.

“Jack has been a No. 1 goalie for a year and a half, and his growth has been excellent,” Minnesota coach Bob Motzko said. “Another year of strength, maturity and game time will be an incredible advantage in his career. He is an outstanding teammate and leader for this program, and we are so fortunate he is a Gopher.”

The 2020-21 season saw LaFontaine set new school records for single-season save percentage (.934) and single-season GAA (1.79) while his five shutouts this year rank tied for third all-time in one season at Minnesota. Among regular goaltenders in college hockey this year, the senior currently ranks first in wins (22-7-0), tied for first in save percentage, tied for second in shutouts, third in saves (717) and fourth in goals against average.

In 16 games against nationally ranked opponents this season, LaFontaine boasted an 11-5-0 record and helped the Gophers to the 2021 Big Ten tournament title and a No. 1 seed in the 2021 NCAA tournament – backstopping Minnesota to its 38th NCAA tournament berth (tied with Michigan for most in college hockey), its first appearance in the national tournament since 2017 and its first NCAA tournament win since 2014.

A two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, LaFontaine helped Minnesota set a new program record with a 3.35 cumulative GPA as a team in the fall of 2020, while the men’s hockey team recorded a term GPA of 3.46, which ranks second in program history after last spring’s 3.64.

The Carolina Hurricanes selected LaFontaine in the third round (75th overall) of the 2016 NHL Draft.