Three weeks in, no leader in the race for top netminder

Freshman Jeff Frazee and junior Kellen Briggs are still splitting time in goal.

by Chris Lempesis

Minnesota’s men’s hockey goaltenders Kellen Briggs and freshman Jeff Frazee are not just teammates. They’re also classmates in the same statistics class.

That’s a fitting class for the pair to be in, considering they have been sharing the netminding statistics for the Gophers so far this season.

Briggs and Frazee have each played three games in net for Minnesota as part of a goalie rotation that was set in place before the start of the season.

Up to this point, Briggs has played the Friday game of each weekend series, with Frazee taking over Saturday night.

This has made for a sometimes successful – if not always comfortable – arrangement as the seventh-ranked Gophers have a record of 3-2-1 (3-1-0 WCHA).

“It’s working out pretty well, I think,” Briggs said. “Obviously, still, I think we both want to play as many games as possible. It’s a little hard to get into it when you’re only playing one game a week. But that’s what we have to do. That’s the situation we’re in.”

Frazee agreed with his counterpart’s sentiments.

“As a goalie, you always want to have the No. 1 spot,” Frazee said. “But, again, it’s not my decision to be made.”

While they might not be necessarily thrilled with the arrangement, the man who made the decision, coach Don Lucia, said the team has no plans to change things up in the immediate future.

This could be because, as Lucia said, he’s been happy with the performances from his two starters.

“I think they’ve both played pretty well right now,” Lucia said. “Both have save percentages over (.900), and that’s what you’re looking for at that position.”

Both might have strong save percentages (.914 for Frazee, .907 for Briggs), but most of the other numbers tilt in favor of the freshman.

Frazee has a better goals against average (2.27) than Briggs (2.95) and, most importantly, a better record. Frazee has a mark of 2-0-1, while Briggs stands at 1-2-0.

According to senior defenseman Chris Harrington, though, the fact that Briggs – who, on average, faces five more shots a game than Frazee – has been the goalie for both losses has as much to do with the play of the players in front of him as it does with Briggs’ performance.

Harrington said the defense has been tighter and, perhaps, better in front of Frazee because it doesn’t really know what goalie Frazee is yet.

“You kind of have that comfort level (with Briggs),” Harrington said, “where if you make a mistake, you know that Kellen, 99 percent of the time, is going to be there for you to cover that up and make sure something doesn’t go really wrong.”

It appears that something would have to go really wrong, for one of the two, at least, for the rotation to end anytime soon.

And though both were quick to say they have a solid friendship off the ice, Frazee said things could get a little strained if a major jump in numbers happens for only one of them.

“There still will be some tension either way, if Kellen starts or if I start,” he said.

“I think there’d be a little friction, but as long as we’re friends for now, I don’t think it will be too bad.”