Now, four games and an exhibition into its season, the Michigan hockey team has split goaltending time evenly between sophomores Jack LaFontaine and Hayden Lavigne.
Mel Pearson has set the deadline for selecting a starting netminder at the eight-game mark. This deadline will come around in approximately two weeks after the Wolverines open conference play this weekend against Penn State and face Ferris State at home the following weekend.
“It’s not unlike quarterbacks here at Michigan,” Pearson said at the onset of the season. “You’ve got three, four, five quarterbacks who are all pretty good, but usually one emerges and then takes the job.”
LaFontaine and Lavigne have already put up half of the showings that will dictate who will get to be the primary goaltender for the remainder of the season.
With this important cut off looming in the near future, here is a closer look at the efforts of each goaltender so far in the season.
LaFontaine boasts a perfect 2-0-0 record on the ice, an elite .950 save percentage and a minuscule 1.01 goals-against average. The goaltender’s performance has already transcended that of his freshman season where he recorded one win while in net. He has started the Friday nightcap against St. Lawrence and Vermont.
LaFontaine picked up his first win of the season against the Saints, which came in the Wolverines’ first game of the season. He registered 24 saves, and allowed only one goal throughout regulation.
“LaFontaine was excellent in net (against St. Lawrence),” Pearson said. “You need goaltending, and I thought Jack was a huge difference for us in this game.”
In the home-opener against Vermont on Friday night, LaFontaine again put on a stellar performance and recorded his second complete-game win of the season. The sophomore netminder made five saves in each period, and let the puck slide by him only once.
Notably, when the Catamounts held a 5-on-3 advantage during the second period, LaFontaine remained unfazed, notching four saves en route to Michigan escaping the dangerous penalty kill unscathed.
Lavigne has gone 1-1-0 over his two outings this season, holding a quality .898 save percentage and a 2.50 goals-against average.
In his season debut, the sophomore goaltender had to settle for a 3-0 loss to Clarkson. However, he still put up a solid effort, making 16 saves on the night and was instrumental in the Wolverines’ 5-for-6 mark on penalty kills.
Lavigne notched his standout performance in the second game of the Vermont series.
Saturday night he earned his first win in the net, and was fundamental to the Wolverines’ clutch weekend sweep. Lavigne registered 28 saves, shutting down many of the Catamounts’ most viable scoring opportunities.
“I thought they had a few very good scoring opportunities,” Pearson said. “And (Lavigne) came up big.”
After the first weekend of play, LaFontaine may appear to have a slight edge over Lavigne in the battle for the starting position. Yet, subsequent to the Vermont series, each goaltender has displayed at least one standout night and both hold impressive stats this year. These factors ensure that Pearson’s impending decision will be anything but easy.
“Two good goalies in both Hayden and Jack,” said sophomore forward Adam Winborg following the Vermont series. “… As long as we do our job in front of them, they’re there, so they’ll always give us a chance to win the games.”