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Faber, LaCombe lead Gophers men’s hockey into postseason

Both defensemen are nominated for the Hobey Baker Award, a top individual award in collegiate hockey.
Image by Ethan Fine
Friday’s game was Faber’s first time playing with the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul.

Brock Faber and Jackson LaCombe have been consistent blue-line forces to be reckoned with since 2020, and this year they are finally being nationally recognized for it.

The two defensemen are leading the No. 1 ranked Gophers to Frozen Four favorite status along with being nominated for some hardware — one of the most iconic individual awards in college hockey, The Hobey Baker award.

Both skaters were drafted in the second round of the NHL Draft, with LaCombe selected by the Anaheim Ducks in 2019 and Faber chosen by the Los Angeles Kings in 2020 before being dealt to the Minnesota Wild in 2022.

“They had every reason to leave … But they came back for a reason, right here,” said head coach Bob Motzko, pointing towards the Minnesota M on his shirt. “They came back for their teammates and program and how big is it? It’s monstrous and it proves that you don’t have to leave early all the time.”

Both players hail from prominent hockey towns in Minnesota — Faber from Maple Grove and LaCombe from Eden Prairie, although he played at Shattuck St. Mary’s in high school. They’ve been around the game their entire lives, making them easy to mold into leadership positions.

Now that the waiting for the baton to pass has finished, team captain Faber and assistant team captain LaCombe are evolving.

“The biggest thing with LaCombe is now his physicality. He’s developed his body to be rock-solid to add strength to his talent, growing his confidence,” Motzko said. “Faber was kind of a manchild when he got here and he just needed to mature. But already he’s a world-class defender and now this is the first time he’s been a veteran. So now he’s not chasing older guys so he’s got a calmness and coolness of his game, making him a more complete player.”

This season, LaCombe has doubled his average season scoring total from his previous three years playing for Minnesota. The senior already has seven goals.

“Obviously Comber [LaCombe] is a very special hockey player and an even better person,” said Faber. “All the guys look up to him and his amazing work ethic. We all love him and what he’s done for this program, which is much more than what the naked eye can see. It’s something a lot deeper with the culture and the stuff he brings on a daily basis.”

Faber, the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and only 20 years old, has led the Gophers this season to a 1.71 average scoring margin against opponents, the second-highest in the nation. He also holds a +19 plus/minus margin, third on the team behind freshmen phenom forwards Logan Cooley and Jimmy Snuggerud, who are in joint first place.

“He’s a star player and obviously such a high talent and hard-working kid,” LaCombe said. “Just to see his growth over the last few years has been awesome, and I have taken some stuff from his game too, so he’s helped me a lot too.”

Only nine defensemen have won the Hobey Baker award. If Faber or LaCombe win, they would be the first Gopher to win since Jordan Leopold during the 2001-02 season when the Gophers won the first of back-to-back national championships. The Gophers haven’t won a national championship since the second half of that two-season span in 2002-03.

LaCombe currently has 7 goals and 19 assists (26 points) with a career-best nine-game point-scoring streak this year. Faber has 3 goals and 17 assists (20 points) with a career-best six-game point-scoring streak this year.

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