Goaltender Mat Robson has ascended the ranks of college hockey in just his third start — shutting out the No. 1 team.
While the Gophers have historically carried three goalies through each season, head coach Don Lucia has a situation now where he has two capable number-one starting goaltenders in Mat Robson and Eric Schierhorn.
“Right now, we feel we have two good goalies that can play,” Lucia said. “Now we know that if we continue to split [their time], they’ve got to concentrate on the one game and just play well in the one game and turn it over to the next guy.”
Robson joined the program prior to the start of the season as a transfer and he had to sit out the first half of the season due to an NCAA ruling on his signing in the Canadian major junior league. With the Penticton Vees, a team in the British Columbia Hockey League, he led the BCHL in wins, shutouts, and minutes played and helped the Vees get to the BCHL Fred Page Cup and win it in 2017.
Now after the BCHL and the first half he had to sit out, he has played three games and has improved in each start. With only a few games, he stopped some of college hockey’s top forwards and he said the jump from juniors to college can be a big one.
“Everyone at this level was ‘the guy’ back in juniors,” Robson said. “Everyone can shoot, everyone can skate, everyone’s bigger, definitely traffic in front of the net, from a goalie’s perspective, that’s definitely one of the biggest things.”
After Minnesota lost to St. Cloud State in the first game of last weekend’s series, Robson was thrust into the situation of playing the No. 1 team in the nation with just two games and one win under his belt. He turned that situation into shutting out the Huskies and being named the Big Ten first star of the week.
The sophomore goaltender puts Minnesota in a unique situation, one with two capable starters and in each weekend he has been eligible so far, Robson started one of the two games of a weekend.
The situation now allows for either goaltender to have an off night and go with the fresh hand, Lucia said. In the past, Schierhorn would have to go from a bad first game and play again right away in the second game. Now, Lucia has more options with Schierhorn playing better than his career numbers for the first half of the season and Robson falling into a starting role and getting two wins out of three chances.
“You always welcome competition,” Schierhorn said. “We’re going to push each other. He’s a good guy and a good person. He works hard every day and we like having him.”
While the two goaltenders are now sharing the net, they don’t share nationality, another rarity for the Gophers’ program. Robson is a native of Mississauga, Ontario, just outside of Toronto and when he got to the program, he was Minnesota’s first Canadian player in over 10 years, dating back to the 2005-2006 season.
The nationality difference also causes a problem in family being able to watch his games. Robson said, being in Canada, they can’t watch certain American-based networks. He also said that despite the issue, they make it to Minneapolis as much as they can to see him play.
Now that the second half of the season is in full swing with Michigan visiting 3M Arena at Mariucci this weekend, Lucia has full confidence in the new goaltender.
“[Robson] plays such a quiet game, he’s steady,” Lucia said. “He never gets too rattled and I think he’s shown that in the three starts he’s had so far.”