MINNEAPOLIS — The holiday known as Good Friday became something more like Great Friday for some college hockey fans late on a sunny, windy afternoon. Minnesota Gophers goaltender Jack LaFontaine, the top goalie in the Big Ten last season and one of three finalists for national goalie of the year, announced that he will be coming back for a fifth season of college hockey, and his third with the U of M.

“I love it here at the University of Minnesota, I love my teammates and I love the culture we are building,” LaFontaine said, in a statement released by the school. “I have some unfinished business, and this team has unfinished business, so we are excited to get back to work and see this journey through.”

The news comes after LaFontaine, 23, completed one of the best seasons for a goalie in the 100-year history of Gophers hockey. He was 22-7-0 as a starter, posting five shutouts and two Gophers single season records: 1.79 goals-against average and a .934 saves percentage. The work did not go unnoticed nationally, as LaFontaine was named a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, and a top three finalist for the Mike Richter Award, given annually to college hockey’s top goalie.

“Jack has been a No. 1 goalie for a year and a half, and his growth has been excellent,” Gophers coach Bob Motzko said in a statement. “Another year of strength, maturity and game time will be an incredible advantage in his career. He is an outstanding teammate and leader for this program, and we are so fortunate he is a Gopher.”

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Under NCAA rules put in place to compensate for the time lost due to the pandemic, all players have an optional extra year of eligibility.

Originally from suburban Toronto, LaFontaine began his college career at Michigan but left there after two years. He played junior hockey in British Columbia and was honored as the top goalie in that league in 2018-19, then enrolled at Minnesota. He split the Gophers netminding duties with Jared Moe for the first part of the 2019-20 season, then took over the position and has been the team’s every-night starter since January 2020. Moe, who started two games last season, recently announced he will transfer elsewhere in search of more playing time.

Perhaps most importantly, LaFontaine’s efforts in the net helped the Gophers win the 2021 Big Ten Tournament, where he was named MVP, and got them a record 38th invite to the NCAA tournament — the program’s first under Motzko — where they defeated Omaha before falling to Minnesota State Mankato in the regional final.

With Moe’s departure and LaFontaine returning, the Gophers are expected to have a new three-goalie depth chart next season. Justen Close is expected back for a junior season as the team’s third-stringer, while Fargo Force goalie Brennan Boynton announced his commitment to the Gophers program this week and is expected on campus in the fall.

LaFontaine, who is majoring in English and has twice been honored by the Big Ten for his academics, is a 2016 draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes, who are expected to retain his rights until LaFontaine is out of college.