Goalie Jack LaFontaine Is Michigan Hockey's Future
It’s no secret that Michigan’s hockey program has been on a multi-year search for improved goaltending.
Steve Racine’s current upward trend in net is encouraging, but the senior netminder is in his last few games as a Wolverine.
Michigan’s coaching staff has identified and secured the commitment of NAHL goaltender Jack Lafontaine to join the program as part of the 2016 freshman class to help fill Racine’s spot.
All indications are that Lafontaine, while not being a savior, will bring competitiveness and a desire to win to Yost Arena next fall when he joins current Wolverines junior Zach Nagelvoort and freshman Chad Catt in a battle for the starting position in net.
U-M might also bring in freshman Hayden Lavigne.
A native of Mississauga, Ont., the 6-3, 190 pound Lafontaine joined Janesville of the NAHL (North American Hockey League) this season after putting up a 2.13 goals against average and a .923 save percentage with the Georgetown Raiders of the OJHL (Ontario Junior Hockey League) last season.
Lafontaine got off to a sizzling start this season with Janesville, leading the NAHL circuit early on in goals against average and ranking second in save percentage. He’s cooled somewhat after the hot start, but currently maintains a 2.35 goals against average and a .910 save percentage through 27 games with Janesville.
Janesville Jets goaltending coach Larry Clemens is bullish on Lafontaine’s future.
“Jack’s ceiling is one of the highest I’ve ever worked with,” Clemens told TheWolverine.com. “He’s one of the better Jets we’ve had. Some guys we’ve had were already at their peak in their time here, but the scary thing about Jack is that he’s going to get even better.”
“Jack is a young man in love with winning,” said Janesville head coach Joe Dibble. “His inner drive to win helped smooth his transitions from tier to tier and league to league. I think you’ll see that as he moves on to college, too.”
Lafontaine’s future hasn’t escaped the attention of NHL scouts either. He’s currently the 10th-rated North American goaltending prospect for this spring’s NHL Draft.
Lafontaine discussed several subjects with The Wolverine recently.
On his start in hockey as a kid:
“I first started playing hockey when I was 7 years old on a House League team for the Port Credit Storm. That season solidified my passion for both the game and the position.”
On his biggest hockey influences:
“My biggest hockey influence has been my mother. She has always been there for me in both my darkest and brightest times. Whenever I doubted myself, she would be there to boost my confidence.”
On the positives of playing for Janesville and in the NAHL:
“The positives gained by playing for the Janesville Jets in the NAHL are that they give players opportunity to develop with the proper resources at hand. For instance, my goalie coach Larry Clemens has been a large part of my success on the ice for development.”
On his style of play:
"My style of play as a goaltender is very active; someone who uses their athleticism to make saves. Also, I use my big frame to make saves look easy and I enjoy playing the puck."
On who he admires as a pro:
“My pro idol is Terry Sawchuk because I always admired the records he once held (most shutouts and wins). I would say I play most like a John Gibson (former Michigan commit and current Anaheim Duck) because of the similar positional techniques we utilize.”
On the on-ice reasons he chose Michigan:
“I chose Michigan because it is a school that has a long history of winning and I want to be in an environment where the main goal is a NCAA Championship.”
On the off-ice reason he chose Michigan:
“I chose Michigan for its great business school. The Ross Business School is ranked in the Top 5 in the country and I want to pursue a career in that sector.”
On his reaction to visiting Ann Arbor and Yost Arena:
“I have visited both Ann Arbor and Yost Arena and I was absolutely stunned by the atmosphere. To me, it looked like a Greek Colosseum where some of the NHL's greatest players once stepped foot.”
On the circumstances surrounding his commitment:
“My commitment story was actually very recent and I gathered my family and advisers to declare my final choice for the school I would be attending. I called Coach [Brian] Wiseman and Coach [Red] Berenson sharing the great news. Overall, it had to be one of the greatest days of my life.”
On his preparation for arriving in Ann Arbor in the fall:
“My preparation plan between now and my arrival in Ann Arbor is to work on my game on the ice to prepare myself for the NCAA caliber of hockey. In addition, I want to increase strength and stamina in the gym to come into camp ready to go.”