All-American Keith Ballard, All-American Paul Martin and All-American ” and Hobey Baker award-winner ” Jordan Leopold.
There have been more than a few successful offensive defensemen during Don Lucia’s tenure as coach of Minnesota’s men’s hockey team.
Judging by the play of sophomore Alex Goligoski this season, Lucia just might have found another one.
After being named to the All-WCHA Rookie Team last season, Goligoski is having an even better second year. He currently sits in third place among WCHA defensemen in scoring with seven goals and 19 assists (26 points).
“Other than maybe the month of October, I think he’s really come on and become one of the top defensemen in the WCHA,” Lucia said. “And he’s certainly a candidate to be an all-league player when the season’s over.”
Goligoski has been especially effective making a name for himself on the power play. Almost half his points (3-9-12) have come when the Gophers have been on the advantage.
He has earned the trust of the coaches in those situations. Many times, he is the only defenseman on the ice as the Gophers usually add an extra forward.
“I’m a guy that can get points on the power play and move the puck,” Goligoski said. “Get the puck up to my forwards quickly.”
But, obviously, the statistics show Goligoski has been doing damage in nonpower-play situations as well.
When asked about Goligoski’s specific offensive strengths, Lucia pointed to his vision, skating and shooting.
“I mean, all the things that you’re looking for,” Lucia said.
One thing he didn’t have ” at least during last season ” was considerable weight. Goligoski was listed at 178 pounds at the start of last season and, at 6 feet tall, that’s not much.
That was more than likely a factor in Goligoski missing time last season with a broken hand and a shoulder injury.
The Grand Rapids native bulked up during the off-season, adding almost 10 pounds to his frame.
“It’s helped out a lot,”
Goligoski said. “I’ve put on like 10 pounds since last year and you can tell. When you’re battling in corners and stuff, it makes it a lot easier.”
That improved weight also has led to better play in the defensive area of Goligoski’s game.
In fact, both Goligoski and Lucia said his defensive play has been the aspect of the game in which he’s improved the most from last season.
“That’s definitely a part of my game I try to concentrate on most,” Goligoski said. “With where I’m playing, points are going to come. But when it comes down to the end of the year, you’ve got to be able to shut other teams down in the defensive zone.”
Offensively, defensively, everything, at the moment, seems to be clicking for Goligoski ” a second-round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. The flashes of potential have been so great that Lucia said Goligoski has “got a real good chance to be an All-American here before he’s finished.”
And while it remains to be seen if he will join the company of Leopold, Ballard and Martin, Goligoski ” for now, at least ” will have to get by on the compliments of players like his defensive linemate, R.J. Anderson.
“Playing with Golly, it’s an honor,” Anderson said. “He’s such a great player, and I’ve just tried to model myself after him.”
On second thought, that’s not bad praise either.