Thanks to Kindersley's Justen Close and his teams run to the NCAA Frozen Four setting up a watch party in town at the local Red Lion Inn, it was a cartoon animal mash-up for the ages last night as the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers took on the Minnesota State Mavericks in front of some hometown supporters:
Enough with the silly stuff, as last night's game was by-far the biggest of Close's short collegiate career.
That can likely be said for a majority of the players on the ice last night for Minnesota and Minnesota State, as speaking of a majority, the State of Hockey supplied most of the skaters that took part in last nights semi-final game.
That can't be said for the goalies, as obviously Close is from Saskatchewan, and his opposing netminder last night Dryden McKay hails from Illinois. McKay is the far more accomplished goaltender this year and over his NCAA career as a 4 year starter, but ESPN's Andrew Raycroft did give Close lots of praise as a similar styled goaltender in last night's pre-game show.
The Golden Gophers got out to a first period lead last night despite being outshot heavy in the opening frame, as Close stopped 11 pucks to send the team into the second period with confidence. From there things got out of hand for the Golden Gophers with a pair of wraparounds, and a tip-in finding the back of the net against Close, and the Gophers just weren't able to mount a comeback from there against a much more veteran and grit-minded team. Close got to the bench early for a last gasp at coming back, but they would eventually drop the game with a 5-1 final score to end their season.
We in west central always believed in Close, but a run to the Frozen Four wasn't in the cards for many Golden Gophers fans after their starting goalie Jack LaFontaine bolted for the NHL halfway through the season. The team features a ton of high end young players, and also outgoing players as their main producers, meaning the team might look a lot different in front of Close should he earn the starters job in his senior season.
Even as a third stringer Close always prepared as if he was the starter, and though they will have to recover from a tough loss, this summer should be a good one as the local goalie can use this year as a terrific offseason boost.
Expect a check-in with Close now that his season is over, and he can relax in the land of lakes; or return home to the land of the living skies.