Minnesota Hockey Magazine

Schwartz: In the Shadows No More

Minnesota goaltender Adam Wilcox prepares to make a save against Minnesota-Duluth in January’s North Star College Cup. (MHM Photo / Jeff Wegge)

 

Like it or not, Adam Wilcox’s stellar play lands him in the spotlight.

He’s humble off the ice and just as ruthless on it.

Gopher sophomore Adam Wilcox is putting up numbers that Gopher goalies don’t usually amass. He’s already got the single season record for save percentage, his 51 wins (going into this weekend’s NCAA West Regional) ties him for seventh all-time (with two years left to play) and he is tied for second in the NCAA this year in save percentage.

And if you ask him about his success – all he’ll do is talk about how good the defense in front him is playing.

Wilcox is a finalist for Mike Richter award, given out to the nation’s top goaltender and a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the player who best displays outstanding skills in all phases of the game, strength of character on and off the ice, sportsmanship and scholastic achievement. While this is the first year of the Richter award, Wilcox is the first Gopher to be a finalist for the Hobey since Ryan Potulny in 2006.

Think about that, it’s been 8 years since the Gophers have had a finalist for the nation’s top individual hockey honor. Names like Kessel, Okposo, Wheeler, Bjugstad and more have donned the Maroon and Gold—some longer than others—but none of them have crossed into the territory that Wilcox has.

But what I love most about Adam Wilcox and his success is that he wasn’t a highly-touted blue chip goalie from a hockey factory school. He played in US selection camps but never played in the World Junior Championships or played on the development team. He was a very good goalie at South St. Paul, which is becoming ‘Goalie High’ between Wilcox and his cousin Alex Stalock who plays for the San Jose Sharks.

While he was named to the All-Classic Suburban team twice, he only earned honorable mention at the state level twice. In fact, he might have been a better football player for the Packers, making All-Conference and All-State teams and even winning the Tom Nace award.

He is the quintessential story of good things happening to people who work hard. He stayed at his small school as long as he could. And when his opportunity to shine came, he made the most of it.

Wilcox was drafted in the sixth round of the 2011 draft by Tampa Bay which is not bad for goalies by any means but, until this season, he was somewhat of an unknown outside of our borders. Now, he is looking to pull off something that only two other goalies have done in the history of college hockey have achieved: Win its top prize, the Hobey Baker award.

By the way, one of the others to do it, was the guy who Wilcox will spend the next two years chasing in the Gopher record books, Rob Stauber, who won the award in 1988 (Ryan Miller is the other).

I happen to think Wilcox can pull it off. If you look at the numbers they are comparable. Stauber went 34-10 that year, with a 2.72 goals against average. While Wilcox won’t be able to duplicate the win total, his G.A.A. is a slim 1.90 (third in the nation). Yes there are goalies with better stats, but they don’t play the level of competition that Wilcox does night in and night out.

Like most goalies he is a cool customer. He rarely gets rattled in a game, and he never sweats a question after it. It would be nice to see a Minnesotan get a chance to join an elite group, especially since the “land of 10-thousand skates” rarely is known for those who wear the goalie version.

Just maybe Wilcox can pull it off. But if he does, don’t expect him to brag much about it.