Friday, April 08, 2011

Frozen Four: Justin Fontaine Going Out in Style

ST. PAUL -- We've talked a lot about the decisions made by UMD seniors Justin Fontaine and Mike Montgomery to stay when they could have turned pro. While it's nice to see them rewarded for their loyalty to this program, it's also great to see an offensive talent like Fontaine ending his career in style.

As the Bulldogs prepare for what they know is their final game of the season -- Saturday in the NCAA final against Michigan here -- Fontaine is making his final push for a shot at professional hockey when it's all finished up.

Based on how he's played as of late, Fontaine is well-prepared for that opportunity, one that is virtually inevitable.

On his way toward becoming the first UMD player since Mike Peluso to average a point per game over a four-year career, Fontaine carries a career-high 11-game point streak into Saturday's championship game.

Thanks to that run of 19 points in 11 games, Fontaine has improved to 164 career points on 62 goals and 102 assists. That makes him the 14th Bulldog ever to accumulate 100 assists (Jack Connolly is getting close, too). He's one point away from tying Skeeter Moore for 15th on UMD's all-time scoring charts (165 points). If he truly has the game of his life, former All-American defenseman Curt Giles had 171 points. That might be asking a bit too much, though.

Even more incredible, Fontaine did all this after posting 12 points in his freshman season. His production since then has been off the charts, and a huge part of this program's resurgence.

Coach Scott Sandelin has been singing Fontaine's praises all season, making sure everyone remembers that he's not exactly a weak link in UMD's top line.

While Jack and Mike Connolly garner All-American nods, and both were named first-team All-WCHA, it's almost like Fontaine does indeed lurk in the shadows.

In his four years at UMD, he's become a reliable penalty-killer, is certainly a top goal-scorer, and is capable of playing effectively in all zones. He was a quality talent when he showed up, and he has used his 158 (soon to be 159) career games to improve all facets of his game, making him a top free-agent prospect once his season ends in around 24 hours.

While he's been prepping himself for the next level, Fontaine has also shown what it means to end a successful career in style. He gets one more chance on his sport's biggest stage to show how truly valuable a player he is, and it's best that you not bet against him doing just that when the chips are down.

Someone is going to score the biggest goal of his life Saturday at the XCel Energy Center. And there's no better candidate to look at than Justin Fontaine.

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