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Season ends on sour note

Kangas, Gophers knocked out of the playoffs

By Ben Pherson

bpherson@postbulletin.com

WORCESTER, Mass. — There’s a certain amount of civic pride felt when a hometown kid does well.

For the past five months, Alex Kangas has given local folks plenty of opportunities to puff out their chests and exclaim, "That kid’s from Rochester!"

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The freshman goalie for the University of Minnesota is a Rochester Century graduate. He’s been the feel-good story for much of the State of Hockey, especially the last month as he led the Gophers into the WCHA title game and the NCAA tournament.

It’s unfortunate that in a year filled with so many memorable moments, Kangas would rather forget his final game.

The Gophers suffered a 5-2 loss Saturday to Boston College in the opening round of the NCAA Northeast Regional at DCU Center.

In this case, though, the positives so outweighed the negatives, it wasn’t hard for Kangas to look back and realize he’d just wrapped up an amazing season.

"Obviously, right now, it’s not about me; it’s about the guys in that locker room," Kangas said. "I put my heart and soul into it every time I stepped on the ice. It’s a bad way to end, but we definitely proved a lot of people wrong. We definitely battled and showed a lot of heart."

Saturday was just the second time in 30 starts that Kangas has given up four goals (the fifth came with an empty net).

He was named the MVP of the WCHA Final Five after posting a 1.21 goals-against average and a .959 saves percentage.

Kangas finished his freshman season with the greatest goalie numbers in Minnesota’s storied history. He set school records in both goals-against average (1.98) and saves percentage (.930).

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Not bad for a kid who didn’t know how much he’d see the ice in his first year.

Coming in as the likely backup to Jeff Frazee, Kangas "hoped" he’d get some playing time. When Frazee faltered in December, Kangas stepped in.

"The coaches told me when I came in I’d have the opportunity to prove myself and fight for the job," Kangas said. "When the opportunity presented itself, I was fortunate enough to be able to lock it down."

The competition for goaltending duties created some tense moments between Frazee and Kangas. "But we both respect each other," Kangas said. "He’s been very supportive down the stretch."

There’s been speculation that Frazee will not be back with the Gophers next season. "I’m not sure what he’s going to do next year, but that’s none of my business. If he comes back, I’ll expect to have a good battle for (playing time)," Kangas said.

In the offseason, Kangas said he’ll focus on his game. He’s planning to stay in the Twin Cities to take summer school classes and hit the weight room in hopes of entering next season in better shape than he did this season.

Can he really get any better?

"I hope so," Kangas said. "Hopefully, I’ll have some more success in my future. It was a good year, but hopefully it was just the beginning."

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Page D6:NCAA roundup, schedule

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