Goalie Christian Gaffy is willing to take a chance on Minnesota Duluth.
After a superb senior year at Forest Lake (Minn.) High School in 2009-10, he talked with Division III University of St. Thomas in St. Paul and Alexandria (Minn.) in the North American Hockey League. Gaffy, 18, was leaning toward junior hockey, when UMD called in May. Sophomore goalie Brady Hjelle was leaving the Bulldogs to return to the U.S. Hockey League.
UMD desperately needed a third goalie for 2010-11, a position that promises no playing time and almost no scholarship money.
“It’s worth taking a risk to come to UMD. I have the chance to go right to a Division I program, to a team that’s in the WCHA. The time I spend there will make me a better goalie,” Gaffy said Wednesday. “You take a risk no matter where you go. Junior hockey isn’t a sure thing and Division III isn’t a sure thing.”
The Bulldogs, who begin dryland training Aug. 9, return two goalies, junior Kenny Reiter and sophomore Aaron Crandall. After splitting time with Reiter last season, Hjelle chose to return to Cedar Rapids (Iowa) in the U.S. Hockey League, where he played in 2007-08.
“If I had to do it all over again, I would have stayed (in Cedar Rapids) and played a second year, but I didn’t,” Hjelle told KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids last month. “I wasn’t happy at Duluth. That’s really all I can say about that.”
Gaffy’s first varsity season came as a senior. He finished 13-3-2 with Minnesota’s second-best goals-against average (.935) and eighth-best save percentage (1.74). Forest Lake won the Suburban East Conference for the first time (gaining a three-way title tie) and advanced to the Section 7AA semifinals before losing to Elk River 5-0 at the DECC.
“Christian was one of the most athletic goalies in the state last season,” Forest Lake coach Aaron Forsythe told the Forest Lake Times earlier this month.
Gaffy, 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, had been accepted as a student at UMD in March, even though he was still undecided on plans for 2010-11. He was an A student already taking college credit courses while at Forest Lake.
At UMD last season, Reiter, from Pittsburgh, was 13-10 with a .912 save percentage and 2.36 goals against average. Crandall, from Lakeville, Minn., didn’t see any playing time. UMD has a commitment for 2011-12 from goalie Matt McNeely of Burnsville, Minn., who will be with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., for a second year in 2010-11.