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Brock Faber makes Xcel Energy Center debut in 5-1 playoff win

The Wild retook the series lead over the Dallas Stars, now ahead 2-1.
Image by Ethan Fine
Friday’s game was Faber’s first time playing with the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul.

Brock Faber skated with the Minnesota Wild for 11 days and through four games, but until Friday, he had not played inside the confines of the Xcel Energy Center.

On the day he moved out of his collegiate home in Dinkytown, Faber finally laced up in St. Paul wearing a green jersey and didn’t disappoint. The rookie helped the Wild push past the Dallas Stars 5-1 in Game 3, bouncing back from a big 7-3 blowout loss on Wednesday.

The Maple Grove native finished +2 in the plus/minus, on the ice for both of Mats Zuccarello’s goals and blocking 2 shots in 19 shifts. Faber also held a 59.4% in expected goals forced during his 12:10 minutes of ice time.

“Everything,” said Minnesota Wild head coach Dean Evason about what he liked out of Faber in his home debut. “You don’t play two games in the NHL and then jump right into the Stanley Cup Playoffs without doing what he’s done … credit to [Bob] Motzko and the [Gophers] coaching staff for preparing him to come into the National Hockey League ready to be a pro. But even more importantly, it’s a credit to him … Physically he’s there, but mentally, he’s above.”

After an iconic diving deflection on Dallas’ Mason Marchment in Game 1 to prevent a game-winning goal in double overtime, Faber was blasted by Marchment on Friday near the Wild’s bench during the second period. Kirill Kaprizov and Matt Boldy were both present for backup.

“It was fine,” Faber said. “There was no glass there, so it didn’t hurt as much as it probably would’ve … wasn’t too bad.”

Faber started off Friday locked on the defensive end and increasingly became more comfortable on offense as the game opened up. In the first period, he mostly protected the Minnesota netfront, aiding goalie Filip Gustavsson (who saved 23 of 24 Stars shots), before receiving a faceoff to give the Wild their first lead. Faber, number 7, slid the puck across the blue line to John Klinberg, who was credited with an assist to Zuccarello.

“I think he’s solid,” Zuccarello said. “He plays hard, he’s big, he’s strong … he makes plays when they’re there and he makes simple plays when you need to. Like everyone today, he played really solid.”

From the second period onward, Faber wasn’t afraid to lead rushes on the Wild’s constant forecheck. Most of his efforts ended with deep dumps inside Dallas’ zone. His most impressive offensive attack was outskating some Stars in the third period, speeding down the left boards before dumping it again into the opposing side’s ice.

“It was awesome, the crowd was great,” Faber said. “It was everything I ever imagined and even more. Pretty special night, and I’m glad we got the win.”

Faber’s former teammates Mike Koster, Mason Nevers and Carl Fish came to the game alongside Faber’s family and were proud of their former captain’s play.

“He left an imprint on Gopher hockey that no one ever will,” Koster said. “We’re just grateful for what we did, and what’s crazy is that he’s two years younger than me.”

Koster and Faber, along with Jackson LaCombe and Ryan Johnson, led an offensive juggernaut for the Gophers’ blue line last season, combining for 147 points on 30 goals and 117 assists, the most out of any defensive unit in the 2023 NCAA Frozen Four. Faber scored the final point for that defense, assisting Jaxon Nelson on the last Gopher goal of the season during the second period of the NCAA National Championship.

“Fabes took a firm grasp as our leader and laid out: ‘this is who we are, this is what we’re gonna do and this is how we’re going to do it,’” Koster said. “He’s so humble and has talked with our team almost every single day. It just shows how great his parents are and how he was raised; his character is so undervalued.”

The 20-year-old hockey player has been faced with several extreme challenges in the past month, from competing in the Frozen Four at Tampa Bay, making his NHL debut two days later in Chicago and now returning home for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Minnesota Wild are back in action at Xcel Energy Center for Game 4 on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. Central Standard Time, televised on TBS and Bally Sports North.

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