University of Minnesota starting goalie Jack LaFontaine has left the Gophers to sign an entry-level contract with the Carolina Hurricanes.
LaFontaine was drafted by the Hurricanes way back in 2016 out of the NAHL before a long journey that saw him play two years at Michigan, before returning to juniors to play a year in the BCHL, then playing three years at Minnesota, including coming back this year for a fifth year due to Covid, where he served as the Gophers captain.
The Hurricanes are currently their own issues with the ongoing pandemic that have left them thin in goal. LaFontaine may get the opportunity to make his NHL debut in the very near future.
But LaFontaine’s departure is a huge blow to the University of Minnesota’s team. LaFontaine had played every competitive minute in net for the Gophers this season, and though he struggled through much of the first half of the season, he was likely far and away Minnesota’s best option in goal. Walk-on Justen Close has been the second goalie off the bench, with recruited freshman Brennan Boynton not yet seeing the ice. Minnesota’s spring semester begins on Wednesday, which likely leaves not enough time for Minnesota to find another option.
After sweeping Michigan State in East Lansing this past week, Minnesota moved into first place in the Big Ten and up to eighth in the Pairwise Rankings, and finally seemed to be playing up to their lofty preseason expectations. But the loss of such a key piece, along with the presumed losses of forwards Ben Meyers and Matthew Knies and defenseman Brock Faber for a month due to the Olympics threatens to derail what was potentially a very promising season for Minnesota.