Unheralded Weber proves mettle

Adam Fink

Travis Weber heard the critics say he was the least acclaimed goaltender at the Frozen Four.

The goaltender heard himself called the weakest link of Minnesota’s men’s hockey team.

But after matching – and even outplaying – both Michigan’s Al Montoya and New Hampshire’s Mike Ayers, Weber proved he was just the player to deliver the Gophers to their second consecutive national title.

Weber finished the season with a .902 saves percentage and allowed 2.50 goals per game.

But in the postseason, the sophomore improved his statistics.

He allowed three goals in the Frozen Four, while saving 57 shots en route to making the all-tournament team and earning a championship ring with his play on the ice, not the bench.

Last year, Weber watched and learned as senior Adam Hauser backstopped the Gophers to the title.

“You want to prove people wrong,” Weber said. “I can’t give enough credit to my ‘D’ core. They really saved me a number of times.”

It was Weber who saved Minnesota on numerous occasions.

Against Michigan last Thursday, the Hibbing, Minn., native saved 14 of 15 shots he saw in the first period to keep the Gophers in the game.

And despite Minnesota controlling the first period versus New Hampshire in the title game, Weber faced a two-on-one rush early in the game.

Weber didn’t commit too soon or get rattled after he saved the initial shot – like he did earlier in the year – and made two saves on the play.

“Travis came in here and shut everyone down,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “He isn’t given enough credit.”

Weber knows he has room for improvement, but after his play in the Frozen Four, his critics might think twice before claiming he isn’t near elite goalie status.

Three-peat?

There were still two minutes left on the clock Saturday night before the Gophers officially claimed their second title when the word was mentioned on the bench: three-peat.

Minnesota returns everyone except seniors Matt DeMarchi, Nick Anthony and Chad Roberg. DeMarchi was a staple in the lineup and Anthony saw limited action while Roberg didn’t play except in two exhibition games.

“It’s scary with how much talent is coming back,” DeMarchi said. “The future is unstoppable.”

Lucia is a little more reserved before declaring Minnesota is a dynasty in the making.

“From year to year there are no guarantees,” Lucia said. “Just because the puzzle is complete at the end of the year doesn’t mean that it starts there the following year.”

Lucia will take the next two weeks off before he starts preparing for next season.

All-tournament team

Along with Weber and DeMarchi, Thomas Vanek and Paul Martin made the Frozen Four’s all-tournament team.

For DeMarchi, it’s a solid end to his Gophers career. Known for his time in the penalty box (a school-record 474 minutes) more than his impact on the ice, the senior also made the West Regional’s all-tournament team and notched the first goal of the game against New Hampshire.

“I never thought I would go out like this,” DeMarchi said. “It’s an incredible feeling.”

The other two members of the team were New Hampshire’s Steve Saviano and Nathan Martz.

Celebration planned

The Gophers will be hosting a free public celebration at Mariucci Arena at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Last year the team had a ceremony the day after winning the title. But with the team not returning from Buffalo until 2:30 a.m. Sunday, the decision was made for a Tuesday celebration.

Adam Fink covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]